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Tom Sykes has upped the pressure on his World Superbike Championship title rivals by producing a scorching performance in Superpole at Magny-Cours.
The Kawasaki Racing rider, who comes into this weekend's penultimate round with a 31 point advantage over main rival Sylvain Guintoli, showed hints of his pace in the Superpole preceding FP4 session, but would once again wait until the crucial moment to blow his competitors away.
Stopping the clock at 1min 36.366secs, Sykes would smash his own lap record – achieved in 2012 – by six tenths of a second and command a comfortable two tenths lead over Davide Giugliano for his fifth pole position of the year.
In all, three riders would dip below the existing lap record, with Giugliano in particular performing well having actually been faster than Sykes coming into the final sector of the lap, only to drop time in the run to the line.
Rea, meanwhile, will be encouraged to have his PATA Honda back on the front row this weekend, particularly as he remains mathematically capable of staying in title contention.
Indeed, Guintoli will be disappointed with fifth on the grid having taken the fastest time of the weekend thus far into Superpole, the Aprilia rider also losing out to Chaz Davies, the Welshman springing up the order to fourth having spent much of his weekend languishing in the bottom reaches of the top ten.
Marco Melandri rounds out the second row in sixth place, with Loris Baz in seventh having been forced to each SP2 via the passage of SP1 earlier on.
Having enjoyed a strong weekend up to Superpole, Eugene Laverty's qualifying curse struck again as he could only manage ninth fastest, behind team-mate Alex Lowes, while Leon Haslam completed the top ten.
Wild-cards Xavi Fores and Max Neukirchner, riding for the 3C Racing Ducati team, rounded out the remaining SP2 positions in 11th and 12th.
Outside the top 12, Sylvain Barrier emerged as the best placed EVO rider, comfortably quicker than Niccolo Canepa in 16th and David Salom in 17th, the clearly pained Spaniard struggling from his nearly-accident during FP4.