Carlos Checa has claimed the first Superpole of the 2011 World Superbike season, albeit by just 0.013secs from Max Biaggi.
The Spaniard has utterly dominated the Australian curtain raiser thus far, but came remarkably close to being toppled by a charging Biaggi, the Italian getting nearest to his former MotoGP rival than any other rider so far.
Indeed, while Checa was comfortably quickest during SP1 and SP2, it was Biaggi that laid down the gauntlet in the deciding session with a lap record breaking 1min 30.895secs.
With Checa aborting his first fast lap, there looked to be the distinct possibility that the reigning champion would cause an 'upset'. However, despite being down on his rival during the early sectors, Checa hauled it back to nose ahead by less than two hundredths of a second.
Though it was markedly slower than the 1min 30.578secs he managed during testing earlier in the week, Checa Superpole effort of 1min 30.882secs was still sufficient to slice two tenths off Regis Laconi's two year-old record.
Almost four tenths back, Effenbert-Liberty Ducati scored a front row start for its WSBK debut thanks to Sylvain Guintoli, the Frenchman maintaining his strong form so far this weekend to put himself in a strong position to record an elusive maiden WSBK podium.
Having suffered with set-up issues in testing, BMW put on a show of strength in Superpole as both Leon Haslam and Troy Corser defied expectations to reach SP3. Haslam would go on to secure a front row start on his BMW debut in fourth position, while local favourite Corser – who holds the race record around Phillip Island – is seventh.
There were also smiles in the Yamaha camp as Eugene Laverty and Marco Melandri quickly adapted to the 'alien' Superpole format to claim fifth and eighth respectively. An excellent result for Laverty ahead of his WSBK debut, Melandri's performance was also noteworthy having very nearly been bundled out during SP1.
Jakub Smrz will join the pair on row two in sixth position, the Czech rider doing a mighty job to even make it into SP3 just minutes earlier in SP2.
There was less luck for Jonathan Rea however, whose bruising week continued in the same vein during Superpole. The Castrol Honda rider fell at the final bend during SP2, badly damaging his number one bike.