Carlos Checa heads into this afternoon's Superpole session for the seventh round of the World Superbike Championship at Motorland Aragon with the initiative after pacing second qualifying.

Having finished the Friday sessions in second position behind Marco Melandri, Checa capitalised on the improving track conditions to slice two tenths off his rival's provisional effort within the first few minutes of the session.

Though Max Biaggi would set a new standard with a 1min 59.278secs at the half-way point in the session, Checa hit back with a 1min 59.183secs, placing him fastest ahead of definitive qualifying.

Biaggi would end the session in third, just behind Jakub Smrz, who made the biggest gains between sessions as he catapulted from a provisional 20th and last, to second place.

Tom Sykes and Leon Camier maintained their encouraging top five pace on their respective Kawasaki and Aprilia machines, just ahead of the impressive Maxime Berger, who comfortably reached Superpole in sixth place.

Friday pace setter Marco Melandri took three tenths off his best time, though it was only good enough for seventh best, ahead of countrymen Ayrton Badovini and Michel Fabrizio. Joan Lascorz completed the top ten.

With every rider improving on their Friday efforts, the battle to reach Superpole was as intense as ever. Indeed, factory BMW riders Leon Haslam and Troy Corser both occupied positions in the drop zone before lifting themselves into a safe, if not exactly lofty, 13th and 16th.

Indeed, a measure of the improvements between sessions is represented by Noriyuki Haga, who was third fastest at the end of Q1, yet was on the bubble in 16th with a minute to go before securing his Superpole spot in 12th.

In the end, it was Castrol Honda's Ruben Xaus that would prove the highest profile casualty from Q2, the Spaniard failing to capitalise on home advantage as he dropped out in 17th. His omission means not a single Honda rider will feature in Superpole for the first time since the 'knockout' system was introduced.

Joining him on the fifth row will be Chris Vermeulen, Roberto Rolfo and Lorenzo Lanzi, though special mention must go to Mark Aitchison on the Pedercini Kawasaki, who reaches Superpole for the first time in his career with a fine run to the 15th best time.