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World Superbike title contender Sylvain Guintoli has taken a timely first pole position of the season at Laguna Seca after edging out championship rival Tom Sykes in the Californian heat.

Though he has never drifted more than a handful of points from the top of the standings this season, Guintoli comes into the 12th round of 14 with just a single win to his name, while he was also yet to have started a race in 2013 from the front.

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However, having pledged to adopt a more aggressive approach in the United States in his quest to secure this year's title on outright success, Guintoli gave a sizeable hint at his intentions as he powered to the top spot in Superpole ahead of the opening race of the weekend later today.

Indeed, Tom Sykes had looked on course to claim his eighth pole position of the season as his quickest effort proved good enough to rebuff Eugene Laverty, Niccolo Canepa and Chaz Davies. However, having opted to enter the pit lane before the session was over, he could only watch as Guintoli's last gasp attempt proved enough to unseat him from his assumed position by a mere 0.015secs.

Fittingly, the top three in the championship make up the front row with Eugene Laverty claiming third on the grid, thought the Irishman has given his Aprilia crew some work to do after dropping his bike at turn three with less than two hours to go until the first race of the weekend.

Despite the fall, he did just enough to deny Canepa a spot at the head of the grid, the weekend's surprise package at one stage looking fast enough for pole position on the Alstare Ducati, only to fall two tenths shy in the closing stages of the lap.

Nonetheless, the 'super-sub' heads up row two in front of Davies, who was unable to build on an SP2 topping lap time in fifth position, while Davide Giugliano sits in sixth position.

Expected to challenge for pole position, Marco Melandri emerged a disappointing seventh on the second of the BMWs, the title contender adrift of his main rivals and sharing the third row with Jules Cluzel and Ayrton Badovini.

Another very tight session with just seven tenths covering the top seven, the fight to reach SP3 was also hotly contested, with local wild-cards Roger Lee Hayden and Danny Eslick just missing out, the American pair qualifying 10th and 11th respectively.

Pata Honda, meanwhile, endured a Superpole to forget as technical issues prevented Leon Haslam from making it out in SP2, while Michel Fabrizio was a casualty of SP1. They will start from 12th and 13th respectively.

Similarly, there was disappointment for Istanbul standout Toni Elias, the Spaniard struggling to get the best from the Red Devils Roma Aprilia when it mattered. He will start 15th.

A different timetable to the norm this weekend, the first race of the weekend takes place at 22.00GMT, with the second race scheduled for Sunday.