Ten Kate Honda's Chris Vermeulen shattered the lap record in a mind-blowing finale to the first qualifying session as he took provisional pole position in round 10 of the World Supersport championship at Imola, Italy on Friday.

"I just put my head down and went flat out to go as quick as possible. The bike felt really comfortable and we had a great rear race tyre," said the Aussie, who is only eight points away from clinching the world crown.

"For me, it was just another qualifying session and I am not thinking about the title," claimed Chris. "It might cross my mind a little during the race!"

But while Vermeulen shrugged off any championship talk, team manager Ronald ten Kate was much more relaxed after his rider's opening day performance.

"It was a good start to the weekend and relieves a lot of pressure," he admitted. "We had a pretty good race tyre and our aim is to build gradually over the weekend and keep something in store for the race."

In a spectacular qualifying session, 10 riders improved on the lap record, set by Fabien Foret in 2001. Vermeulen's time of 1m 52.918s claimed provisional pole, 16 hundredths of a second faster than Japanese title rival, Katsuaki Fujiwara.

"I tried so very hard today, but I just could not go quicker then Vermeulen's Honda," said the Japanese. "Our bike is losing out on top speed and it's hard to make that up at Imola. We will try and improve the bike's handling tomorrow and make the bike a bit easier to ride, so that I can push much harder. I like this track and had a win here last here, so I'd like to do that all over again."

Vermeulen's team-mate Karl Muggeridge and second Alstare rider Stephane Chambon complete the provisonal front row.

Top Yamaha rider was series regular Gianluca Nannelli in fifth, with the Kawasaki challenge led by Fabien Foret in 11th.



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