Max Biaggi has claimed a long-awaited first World Superbike pole position on home soil at Monza after capitalising on his Aprilia's superior straight-line speed.

Having broken the speed record for a Superbike during the free practice session prior to Superpole, when he touched 330kph (205mph), Biaggi would produce an identical feat during the deciding session to keep his rivals at bay.

His speed advantage proved to be a crucial bonus for Biaggi, who lost two tenths with an error into the Ascari chicane, thus allowing Cal Crutchlow to get very close to him with his last gasp effort.

In the end, Crutchlow would fall just three hundredths short of securing a third pole position of the season, allowing Biaggi, who has 56 grand prix pole positions to his name, to claim his first ever spot at World Superbike level since making his debut in 2007.

An exciting, and occasionally surprising Superpole session, Crutchlow was able to squeeze between Biaggi and Michel Fabrizio, the Ducati rider doing a good job of turning his fortunes around on what was otherwise another difficult day for the Italian manufacturer on home ground.

Jonathan Rea completes the front row after just edging out Leon Haslam, the championship leader getting frustrated by traffic when his first flying lap was spoiled by over-shooting the chicane, while James Toseland did him no favours when the Suzuki man caught his countryman cruising on the racing line out of Ascari.

Toseland, meanwhile, reached SP3 for the first time since the Phillip Island season opener, although he was only good enough for seventh once there, the Yamaha man being sandwiched by the two surprise packages of the session, Ruben Xaus and Tom Sykes.

Only the second time Xaus has reached the final qualifying phase during his tenure with BMW, sixth is also the first time he has out-qualified Troy Corser since the second round of the 2009 World Superbike Championship in Qatar.

There were firsts for Sykes too after he hauled the unfaniced Kawasaki into the top eight for the first time since joining the manufacturer. Additionally, this is the first time a 'green' bike has made it to SP3 since last year's Miller Motorsport Park round.

With Xaus and Sykes up inside the top eight, there were a few surprise omissions from SP3, most notably Assen podium sitter Leon Camier, who looked poised to join his Aprilia team-mate in the top eight when he lost the front-end of the RSV-4 on the exit of Ascari. He will start 13th.

Carlos Checa and Corser were casualties too, the former missing the cut for the first time since joining the Althea Ducati team.

Indeed, it was a tough day all round for Ducati, who - beyond Fabrizio - had to rely on Luca Scassa to ensure two of its 1198s would squeeze into the top ten, the Italian managing his and the Supersonic team's best-ever WSBK grid position in the process.

With Checa down in 11th, Shane Byrne and Noriyuki Haga could only secure 15th and 16th on the grid, the latter once again being let down by his increasingly abysmal single-lap form.

Prior to that, Ducati lost another strong bet in Jakub Smrz, the Czech rider crashing heavily during SP1 at Ascari to destroy his number one bike. Despite making it back out on track on his spare machine, he couldn't quite progress beyond 17th place.

Chris Vermeulen, meanwhile, will start 18th on the second Kawasaki, ahead of Lorenzo Lanzi and Matteo Baiocco.


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