Chris Walker backed up his pre-event pledge and gave his legion of fans something to cheer about at the Brands Hatch European round of the Superbike World Championship - the biggest event on championship calendar.

In conditions that could only be described as atrocious, the HM Plant Ducati rider put on a breathtaking display of skill and bravery to take second place on the provisional grid for Sunday's Superbike double-header. His team-mate James Toseland took a slightly different approach to the session, literally preferring to test the waters with a brisk but reserved seventh place time of 1:37.825, in preparation for Saturday's second qualifying and Superpole.

The unpredictable nature of the British climate is something UK residents have become accustomed to, however riding a 190bhp Superbike through heavy rain and standing water is a different story all together. Unfortunately, this was the unenviable task that faced the HM Plant Ducati riders when they tackled first qualifying for the ninth round of the series.

After riding injured for several rounds, Walker is determined to make an impact in front of the team's home crowd. The 31-year-old rider from Nottingham dominated the majority of the timed session. After feeling his way around the slightly revised Grand Prix circuit for the first 20 minutes, the second half of the session saw him turn up the heat considerably - despite the terrible weather. Walker started out fast and just got faster, but he saw provisional pole snatched away from him by Spaniard Ruben Xaus in a last lap charge that left the Brit with no time to retaliate.

"I've raced at Brands quite a few times in the past," said Walker, "but the track conditions round the back of the GP circuit are as bad as I've ever seen them. Everybody was taking it easy for the first half of the session and I spent a bit of time getting dialled in, but after a few laps I knew that my Dunlop wets were spot-on and that we had some great settings for the HM Plant Ducati, so I decided to wind it up a bit. It's supposed to dry out over the weekend which will be better for the fans but I don't think I've ever felt so comfortable in conditions like those and it won't faze me at all if it keeps on raining."

James Toseland posted the seventh fastest time of the day. With experienced riders such as Michael Rutter, Frankie Chili, Gregorio Lavilla and Neil Hodgson all circulating slower than the 22-year-old sensation, he is in a strong position for Saturday's qualifying.

"Chris seems to be on a mission this weekend," said Toseland. "But for me there wasn't much point in pushing so early in conditions as bad as those. It was just a case of getting dialled in and sussing the tyres to start with - then everybody upped the pace a bit at the end. The wild cards are always strong in Britain and they didn't have anything to lose by giving it some today, but the weather forecast is better for tomorrow and if it's right, today's times will be blown away."