Jonathan Rea assured his and Castrol Honda's impressive pace at Imola was no fluke by claiming only the second World Superbike pole position of his career at Magny-Cours.

Less than a week after scoring an unexpected victory for the manufacturer in Italy, Rea romped to the top of the timesheets when it mattered with a record-breaking lap of 1min 37.490secs, just over a tenth faster than Eugene Laverty.

Rea's pole position comes despite having only featured towards the head of the timesheets in the Superpole-preceding FP2 session, the Ulsterman bringing some joy to a Castrol Honda outfit that has been reduced to just one bike this weekend following Ruben Xaus's withdrawal through injury.

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Laverty had looked on course for pole position as he also lowered the lap record to 1min 37.600secs at the start of SP3, only for Rea to come through moments later and go quicker. Nonetheless, second place represents a sixth front row start for the Irishman in his rookie Superbike season.

Carlos Checa starts third to remain well on course for the title, though the Spaniard endured an eventful Superpole session after being forced to complete a last gasp effort to save himself in SP1, while he came within less than a hundredth of being demoted from SP2 too. Even so, he gathered himself in time to put the Althea Ducati third.

Leon Camier rounds out the front row, the Briton putting in an impressive lap time on the sole Aprilia Alitalia having maintained a fairly low profile weekend up to this point.

His performance was enough to deny local favourite Sylvain Guintoli a spot at the head of the grid, though the Frenchman will be relieved with fifth after posting exactly the same time as sixth place man Tom Sykes, only to get the nod thanks to a quicker second-best lap.

Kawasaki's Sykes, meanwhile, will be frustrated with sixth after producing a lap time in SP2 that would have been good enough for third in SP3.

Leon Haslam and Marco Melandri complete the second row on their respective BMW and Yamahas, while Noriyuki Haga and Joan Lascorz round out the top ten.