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  • Sylvain Guintoli breaks the lap record to claim his third career pole position for Aprilia
  • Davide Giugliano and Marco Meandri complete the front row for Ducati and Aprilia
  • Defending champion Tom Sykes suffers a crash on his fastest lap to leave him eighth on the grid

Aprilia Racing's Sylvain Guintoli will start the first World Superbike Championship race of 2014 from pole position after unexpectedly blitzing the Phillip Island lap record in Superpole.

A fiercely contested Superpole that didn't quite follow the formbook suggested by earlier sessions, Guintoli would burst forth from a closely-matched top ten to shave two tenths off Carlos Checa's erstwhile lap record with a time of 1min 30.038secs.

Indeed, though Guintoli returns to Australia having secured his one and only race win of 2013 there last season, his low profile turn in pre-season testing and the race weekend thus far suggested he wasn't an obvious pole position contender, the Frenchman having not even broken into the 1min 30secs bracket prior to the session.

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Nonetheless, Guintoli would save his best for when it mattered to notch up a third career pole position in WSBK at the expense of Davide Giugliano, who marked Ducati's return to form with a fine run to second by also dipping below Checa's former lap record.

A strong day for Aprilia, Marco Melandri bounced back from a spectacular accident earlier in the day to complete the front row ahead of his debut with the Italian manufacturer in World Superbikes.

Having made headlines by setting the pace in free practice, Alex Lowes couldn't quite replicate that form when it counted in Superpole. Nonetheless, he still starts a noteworthy fifth place, the youngster qualifying just behind Voltcom Crescent Suzuki team-mate Eugene Laverty, and ahead of leading Honda rider Jonathan Rea in sixth.

Reigning champion Tom Sykes, meanwhile, endured an inauspicious start to his title defence after a crash left him him down in an uncustomary eighth place, behind Kawasaki team-mate Loris Baz.

The British rider was on a lap that would have rivalled Guintoli's pole position when he lost the front of the ZX-10R through the tricky downhill left-hander at Lukey Heights.

Leon Haslam completes the third row in ninth place having been forced to come through SP1, while leading EVO rider Niccolo Canepa has the distinction of out-qualifying Chaz Davies on the full-specification Ducati in tenth position, the latter slowed by a wild moment around the high-speed final corner. Joining them on the fourth row, David Salom gets underway in 12th having also reached SP2 via SP1 on his EVO Kawasaki.

Elsewhere, Red Devils Roma Aprilia's Toni Elias and MV Agusta's Claudio Corti head up the fifth row in 13th and 14th after just missing out on the chance to qualify for SP2, while Fabien Foret and Alessandro Andreozzi lead the 'best of the rest' EVO runners in 15th and 16th overall.

Meanwhile, the grid will be down one further rider for tomorrow's races after Geoff May was confirmed with a broken collarbone following an accident during FP3. It means Aaron Yates will be the sole representative for Erik Buell Racing's WSBK debut on Sunday.