Jakub Smrz maintained his pace from free practice at Miller Motorsports Park near Salt Lake City in the USA as he seized the top spot in first qualifying.

The Liberty Ducati rider was almost three seconds faster than anyone else in the wet FP1 session earlier, but proved his strength at the American venue - scene of the sixth round of the World Superbike Championship - as he followed up in dry qualifying to claim provisional pole.

The Czech rider knocked circuit specialist Carlos Checa off the top of the time-sheets with minutes remaining to post the fastest time of 1m 49.842s, edging out the Althea Ducati star by just 0.070s with factory BMW's Marco Melandri third quickest on his S1000RR (1m 50.038s).

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Aprilia's Max Biaggi, the current championship leader, had been languishing in the lower positions before soaring through to bag fourth position on his works RSV-4 in a time of 1m 50.091s.

Checa's team-mate Davide Giugliano and Sylvain Guintoli on the second Liberty Ducati completed the leading six.

Northern Ireland's Jonathan Rea (Honda Racing) and Biaggi's team-mate Eugene Laverty were next, followed by Kawasaki Racing's Tom Sykes and Fixi Crescent Suzuki rider Leon Camier, who rounded out the leading ten ahead of Leon Haslam and Michel Fabrizio.

British ace Sykes crashed out unhurt on his ZX-10R and missed the opportunity to improve upon his time.

Camier's team-mate John Hopkins was 17th fastest, while Hiroshi Aoyama on the second Honda Racing CBR1000RR was a lowly 22nd.

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