A year after taking his first World Superbike pole position at Imola, Tom Sykes stands to challenge for a repeat performance this year after topping second qualifying ahead of Superpole.
The Kawasaki rider, a first-time winner last time out at the Nurburgring, steadily worked his way up the order during Q2 to march ahead with less than five minutes remaining with an exceptional 1min 47.799secs - four tenths under the previous lap record.
Sykes's lap time came after Jonathan Rea, pace setter after Q1, appeared to put the top spot out of reach by becoming the first rider to dip below 1min 48secs. However, not only did Sykes better that, he was able to put two tenths between himself and his countryman.
With the newly-resurfaced circuit giving up some strong lap times towards the end of the session, Michel Fabrizio was able to sneak into third place, ahead of champion-elect Carlos Checa. With Noriyuki Haga fifth, Leon Haslam sixth and Marco Melandri in seventh, all seven manufacturers are represented in the top seven positions.
As ever, the fight to get into Superpole was fierce, with just a second covering Fabrizio in third down to the first of the Q2 casualties, Mark Aitchison in 17th.
Indeed, with wild-card riders Federico Sandi and Alessandro Polita safely qualifying for Superpole, it meant Aitchison missed the cut, as did factory Kawasaki rider Joan Lascorz, the Spaniard failing to make the top sixteen cut for the third time in four races.
Behind him, Matteo Baiocco starts 19th on the third wild-card Ducati, while Ruben Xaus's elimination in 20th means you have to go back to Misano for when Honda last got both of its riders through to Superpole. Behind them, Roberto Rolfo and BMW Italia's WSBK debutant Javier Fores complete the back-end of the grid.