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Marco Melandri heads into qualifying for the eighth World Superbike Championship round at Motorland Aragon as a clear favourite after smashing his own lap record around the Spanish circuit during Q2.
The BMW rider came into Q2 having held down the Q1 top spot overnight, but opted to allow his rivals make the running for much of the 45-minute session, with Max Biaggi and then Tom Sykes surpassing his Friday best early on.
Indeed, the provisional Q1 lap times would mean little come Q2 as nearly every rider posted an improvement within the first ten minutes, with the exception of Melandri, who looked set to end Q2 without bettering his own benchmark.
However, this would all change in the final two minutes when he surged to the top with a best of 1min 57.491secs. An astonishingly quick lap, his effort not only put him five tenths clear of the chasing pack by the time the chequered flag dropped, it would also see him slice two tenths off his own lap record, achieved last year on a Yamaha.
Despite losing noticeable time in the final sector, Kawasaki's Sykes held on for second place, while Carlos Checa shrugged off his concerns about the Ducati's pace around his home circuit by lifting himself to third position.
Leon Haslam consolidated Melandri's efforts in fourth, ahead of Aprilia duo Eugene Laverty and Max Biaggi, while Leon Camier flew the flag for Suzuki in an encouraging seventh position.
Behind them, Ayrton Badovini and Michel Fabrizio went safe in eighth and ninth, while Davide Giugliano remained steady in tenth place in what was a stronger session for the Ducati contingent, the Italian being joined in Superpole by Sylvain Guintoli, Jakub Smrz and Lorenzo Zanetti.
Despite failing to crack the top ten, Honda's Jonathan Rea is safely into Superpole with the 11th best time, while Chaz Davies – who notched up the fastest top speed of the session at 328.9kph – went through in 13th position.
The 16th and final Superpole spot went to Loris Baz, leaving David Salom, Hiroshi Aoyama, Niccolo Canepa, Maxime Berger, John Hopkins, Leandro Mercado and Norino Brignola to contend with their confirmed qualifying positions.