Max Biaggi has taken his first World Superbike pole position of the season – and only the third of his career – with a remarkable lap record around his home circuit of Monza.
Aided by the record-breaking top speeds achieved by his Aprilia Alitalia RSV-4 – which topped out at 334.8km/h during the Superpole preceding practice session -, Biaggi's final effort of 1min 41.745secs saw him slash some four tenths off his own benchmark.
Indeed, Biaggi's opening effort of 1min 42.319secs would have been good enough to score pole position, but he would eventually emerge six tenths ahead of second place man Eugene Laverty, the Italian now a firm favourite to repeat his Monza double from last season.
Prior to the shootout, Biaggi's hopes had been given a further boost when his rival and series leader Carlos Checa – who had started the weekend with an unbroken run of three pole positions – was eliminated in SP2, the Spaniard forced to settle for a modest 11th on a day when no Ducati rider broke into the top ten.
Instead, Laverty posed Biaggi's closest contender, the Irishman showing good qualifying pace again on the Yamaha to score a career-best second place starting position.
He will be joined on the front row by Honda's Jonathan Rea and BMW's Troy Corser, the pair starting up the front of the field for the first time this season.
Marco Melandri will get away from fifth on the second Yamaha, ahead of pre-Superpole pace setter Leon Haslam, whose hopes of challenging for pole position were scuppered by him running across the chicane on his opening lap and having his time deleted.
Former team-mates Michel Fabrizio and Noriyuki Haga round out the top two rows, getting the better of Ayrton Badovini, the Italian not quite able to translate his impressive practice pace into an equally strong Superpole result. Nonetheless, ninth remains his best-ever grid position at WSBK level.
While his team-mate celebrates pole position, Leon Camier could only manage a disappointing tenth on the grid, the Briton going slower than the lap time that had him up to second fastest in the FP2 session just an hour earlier.
There was also frustration for Kawasaki, with both Joan Lascorz and Tom Sykes bowing out in SP1 and landing 13th and 14th on the grid respectively, while Jakub Smrz is another familiar face back in the second-half of the field, the Czech rider struggling in 15th.