Max Biaggi put the new Aprilia RSV4 a shock second on the grid for its World Superbike race debut at Phillip Island on Sunday.

The Roman, preparing to start his third WSBK season, was ranked just eleventh during Friday first qualifying session, but signalled his intentions by claiming second to Ten Kate Honda's Jonathan Rea in second qualifying.

The new knockout Superpole format was an unknown quantity, and clamed some high profile victims, but Biaggi - who often struggled with the previous single-lap attack - excelled to finish second only to Yamaha's rookie superstar Ben Spies.

Aprilia is making its factory return after seven years out of WSBK, while Biaggi last rode for the Italian manufacturer during the 1996 250cc World Championship.

"It's a big sensation for me to come back after so many years to Aprilia with this new project, the bike is good already," said Biaggi, after his best ever Superpole performance. "We still have to see which is the best way to go but for now qualifying was very good and exciting. I don't know about race pace for tomorrow but this is an encouraging start.

"When I saw everyone going 31s [in Superpole], I thought 'wow, that is fast'. I had some trouble in the free practice before qualifying, we swapped bikes and it was not my favourite one but we made a great job," he added.

Biaggi's team-mate Shinya Nakano will start his first WSBK race from ninth.



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