Carlos Checa is ideally placed to wrap up the 2011 World Superbike Championship at Imola after demolishing the lap record on the way to a sixth pole position of the season.
Checa needs to out-score sole remaining title rival Marco Melandri by 26 points to ensure he leaves Italy with the WSBK crown with two rounds to spare, and though the man himself admits he faces a tough task to complete the deed this weekend, his cause has been aided by the Italian only managing ninth on the grid.
Indeed, Checa did the best that he needed to do with a superb effort during the Superpole shootout, the Spaniard producing a 1min 47.196secs lap to crack the lap record – briefly held by Noriyuki Haga
after SP2 – by three tenths of a second.
Even so, despite the sizeable margin over the previous marker, Checa was still pushed all the way by Jonathan Rea, who would slot in less than a tenth behind in second for his and Castrol Honda's best starting position since Assen.
Joining them on the front is Haga, who produced his most convincing Superpole performance on the PATA Aprilia by topping SP2 before slotting into third position with his final effort in the shootout.
A year after his superb pole position for Kawasaki at Imola, Tom Sykes is up front again to complete the front row in fourth position, the Briton himself just three tenths off Checa's record-breaking benchmark.
Indeed, such was the advantage commanded by the top four, more than half a second splits Sykes from Eugene Laverty in fifth, though the Irishman will be content with his performance having struggled for pace on the Yamaha in the run up to Superpole.
Joining him on the second row are BMW pairing Leon Haslam and Ayrton Badovini, the latter causing a stir by qualifying as the best Italian representative on home soil. Sylvain Guintoli, who crashed in the Superpole-preceding FP2 session, bounced back for eighth.
Only the second time he has missed the top eight cut this season, Melandri starts in ninth position and faces a tough ask to keep his already slim title hopes alive. He will start alongside Leon Camier on the sole Aprilia Alitalia, Suzuki's Michel Fabrizio
and Maxime Berger.
Behind them, Jakub Smrz, wild-card Federico Sandi, Troy Corser
and another wild-card Alessandro Polita, fell at the first hurdle to fill positions 13 to 16.