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Leon Haslam splashed to just the third pole position of his World Superbike career at a soaking wet Magny-Cours, despite falling at the close of the session.
It seemed the Englishman had spurned his chances of a timely pole as he crashed in the closing seconds of a chaotic 15-minute dash with Jonathan Rea setting fastest times through the first three sectors.
Rea was unable to better Haslam through the tight final chicane however, meaning an Aprilia will start a World Superbike race from pole position on Sunday for the first time since Aragon in April. The Noale outfit's anguish was transformed to joy in just a matter of minutes.
In a breathless dash that was halted after 13 minutes because of Alex Lowes' crash at the fearsome turn three, riders then had two minutes to take to the track once more to set a final flying lap.
It was then that Haslam fell after touching a white line. By then there had already been falls for Tom Sykes, Sylvain Guintoli, Ayrton Badovini and Chaz Davies, not to mention the spill suffered by Lowes.
In his first race as reigning world champion, Rea will start from second after lapping just 0.004secs slower than his former team-mate with Niccolo Canepa securing his second front row start in as many races with the third fastest time.
Davies will lead the second row in Sunday's races having set the fourth fastest time of the afternoon. The Welshman, who has claimed 140 points from the last three rounds, was on course for pole position before losing the front on the run to the downhill turn 15.
Indeed Davies was chasing Haslam when he suffered the fall and somehow hauled his Panigale R back to pit lane in time for the restarted session. With just two minutes remaining to complete his out-lap, the 28-year old ran out of time to post one last flyer.
In conditions usually to his liking, reigning world champion Guintoli was set for a strong result around a track in conditions that played a pivotal role in his run to the world championship in 2014.
However the Frenchman fell on the exit of the Adelaide hairpin and was thus unable to better his earlier effort.
Fastest in SP1, Luca Scassa survived a late moment to set the sixth fastest time in his first qualifying session in the class in 2015.
Behind came Leon Camier, a fellow SP1 graduate, and Ayrton Badovini, who lost control of his BMW Italia machine at the Nurburgring chicane.
Tom Sykes, the pole-sitter at this track on the previous three occasions, will start both races from a disappointing ninth after high-siding on the exit of turn 13.
Although motionless for several seconds after his fall, Lowes was soon seen up and walking. The spill meant he was unable to better the time set on his third flying lap, which placed him eleventh overall.