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Jakub Smrz has firmed his status as the man to beat heading into Superpole for the sixth round of the 2012 World Superbike Championship after setting the Q2 pace at Miller Motorsports Park.
The Czech rider has been in imperious form so far this weekend having already topped FP1 and Q1 on the Friday, but his lap of 1min 48.517secs in Q2 would set another new standard for his rivals to chase.
Indeed, Smrz commanded a gap of almost a second at one point as times tumbled during the closing stages and though he was regularly out-paced during the first sector, his pace over the remainder of the lap was enough to keep everyone at bay by some margin overall.
In the end, fellow Ducati rider Carlos Checa
would get the gap down to two tenths in the final seconds of the session, though third place man Marco Melandri finds himself half a second adrift in third.
Sylvain Guintoli backed up his Effenbert Liberty team-mate in fourth, ahead of Eugene Laverty and Jonathan Rea on their respective Aprilia and Honda machines, while title contender Tom Sykes, who is targeting a fifth Superpole later today, was tenth fastest.
With almost every rider improving their lap times, Friday's Q1 session counted for little as the order changed repeatedly in the closing minutes. Indeed, as a measure of the improvements, Davide Giugliano – who failed to go quicker – dropped from fifth to 16th in Q2, the Italian lucky not to be dumped out of the Superpole reckoning.
Going in the other direction was local favourite John Hopkins, who slashed almost two seconds off his best lap to leap from 17th to seventh. However, Q2 was still a session of contrasting fortunes for the FIXI Crescent Suzuki team as Leon Camier's failure to better his lap time saw him fail to make the Superpole cut in 20th.
Camier, who was a podium winner with Aprilia last season, will be joined in the lower reaches of the grid by Loris Baz in 17th, Ayrton Badovini in 18th, David Salom in 19th, Hiroshi Aoyama in 21st, Leandro Mercado in 22nd, Jake Holden in 23rd and Shane Turpin in 24th.