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Davide Giugliano headed Tom Sykes and Jonathan Rea to secure a sensational pole position at his first World Superbike race meeting of 2015 at Imola.
Coming off a four-round absence after breaking two vertebrae in a testing spill in February, the Italian edged Sykes into second place by 0.084s to secure his fourth career pole in the class.
Fastest in every session on Saturday, the Italian shrugged off a sideways moment through the final left-right flip flop to claim a 'wonderful' result in front of his home fans.
Sykes ended the session in second and, like the day's free practice sessions, could barely be separated from team-mate Rea on the time sheets. Considering his pace on a long race run on Saturday morning Sykes believes he and his crew need to make 'a few acute tweaks' to ensure two successful outings on Sunday.
Rounding out the front row and just 0.12s back of the pole time, Rea was content with his performance and foresees a tight, four-way scrap for honours in Sunday's races.
Chaz Davies was fastest with three minutes to go but was eventually shuffled off the front row as he couldn't respond to the front three upping their pace. The Welshman qualified a place ahead of Aprilia duo Leon Haslam and Jordi Torres on the second row.
Haslam suffered a crash at the Variante Alta chicane five minutes into Q2 when he lost the front changing direction in the middle of the right-left flick. A full half second separated the Aprilia team-mates.
Leandro Mercado will start from the front of the third row thanks to the seventh fastest time, a place ahead of Ayrton Badovini and Michael van der Mark. The Dutchman, who thrilled home crowds at the previous round in Assen, set the fastest time in Q1 to qualify for the second of the afternoon's 15-minute shootouts.
David Salom placed tenth with Alex Lowes eleventh and Leon Camier, the second fastest man in Q1, failed to set a time after his MV Agusta stopped on his final lap in the first qualifying session.
Outside the top twelve there was disappointment for Sylvain Guintoli who suffered from a sensor issue on his way to 15th.
Although inside the top 20 at the close of FP3, Niccolo Canepa didn't take part in the qualifying session as he was suffering from gastroenteritis.