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Tom Sykes has set himself up for a run at a fifth World Superbike Championship pole position of the season by topping a remarkably tight Q2 session at Misano.
The Kawasaki rider, who was only tenth fastest overnight and behind new team-mate Loris Baz, was in more convincing form during the Saturday morning session as he quickly scaled the timesheets, peaking initially with a new weekend best of 1min 36.339secs, before Davide Giugliano and then Carlos Checa went quicker.
However, Sykes's last effort of 1min 35.935secs would be enough to give him Q2 honours over the two Althea Ducati riders, with Jonathan Rea and Leon Haslam maintaining close company in fourth and fifth respectively.
Even so, Superpole looks to be a tantalising prospect given all 16 qualifiers would end Q2 within a second of one another. In fact such was the meagre margin for error, Maxime Berger, who will not progress to Superpole after managing the 17th best time, was also less than a second adrift of Sykes up top.
Notable inclusions include Matteo Baiocco, who made excellent gains to jump from 17th overnight to seventh on the wild-card Barni Ducati, while Leon Camier avoided a repeat of his Superpole DNQ from Miller by qualifying a comfortable eighth best.
Behind them, Max Biaggi and Eugene Laverty are safely through for Aprilia in tenth and 11th, ahead of Lorenzo Zanetti – who also made late gains – and Marco Melandri, the BMW rider fortunate to make it through just two tenths clear of the drop zone in 13th.
WithBaz squeezing through by less than a tenth in 16th, it is Berger, John Hopkins, Niccolo Canepa – who suffered a costly fall -, Hiroshi Aoyama, Chaz Davies, David Salom, Leandro Mercado and Federico Sandi that have had their grid positions for the races determined already.