Troy Corser continued to stamp his authority over the opening round of the 2001 World Superbike Championship as he cruised to the 26th WSBK pole position of his career, beating out team-mate Regis Laconi for Aprilia's first 1-2 start in the series.

Australian Troy Corser scorched to his 26th pole position in World Superbike competition despite high winds making the 2.95-mile Ricardo Tormo circuit a very difficult proposition for all 16 Superpole qualifiers.

For a long time it looked as though it would be Frenchman Regis Laconi would take top spot on his WSBK debut vaulting from seventh position after final qualifying almost to the pole with a time of 1 minute 36.543 seconds. Laconi's best was just one tenth slower than his morning time and the difference between the two was the key to the ex-GP500 rider's rise as everyone else bar the spectacular Neil Hodgson dropped at least two tenths of a second from their morning time.

However it wasn't to be a dream pole position for the Frenchman as Corser whipped round in a best time of 1 minute 36.193 seconds to demote Laconi to second spot at the very last minute, the 1996 World Champion coming on strongly in the final few corners of his flying lap.

"The wind completely changed when it was my turn to go out," said a delighted Corser. "The wind was pushing me away from the corner on the first few bends, but it helped to hold me tight on the last section, and that is where I was making up all of my time."

Laconi was not too disappointed with second on the grid as he is still lacking experience on the bigger four-stroke bike he now rides. "For sure it is better to start the season this way than in any other way, but it is still very early in the year," said a cautiously optimistic Laconi.

Showing real speed for the first time this weekend was the reigning World Champion Colin Edwards who man-handled his Honda VTR 1000 SP around the twisty, slippery track in a time of 1 minute 36.630 seconds to move up to third place but the outspoken Texan was not overjoyed as a replication of his morning time would have been good enough for pole while Neil Hodgson somehow found two tenths of a second despite the conditions to complete the front row in the best placed Ducati.

Ben Bostrom shook off a lacklustre morning run to put the factory L&M Ducati into fifth spot as all three factory 996's found their way onto the second row, Troy Bayliss and eighth placed Ruben Xaus sandwiching the second Castrol Honda of Tadayuki Okada. Of the above four riders Xaus was the most disappointed as he had looked like a real threat for pole position up until his first ever Superpole contest.

"I was a little cautious and not too aggressive," said the Spaniard after his run. "I tried to go fast by riding smooth, but I was not fast enough. But I really didn't want to risk a crash."

Hitoyasu Izutsu remained the best of the Kawasaki's despite dropping to ninth place while team-mate Gregorio Lavilla completed the top ten. Pierfrancesco Chili's miserable weekend got little better as he struggled to eleventh ahead of Britain's James Toseland who will start on the outside of the third row in his first WSBK event.

The weather continues to threaten and more wind and dull conditions are forecast for Sunday, putting extra pressure and stress on the 30-bike field, who already have a major task on their hands in containing Troy Corser and the factory Aprilia team.