Ben Spies defied his lack of experience around the Losail international Circuit in Qatar to take a dominant provisional pole position during first qualifying for the second round of the World Superbike season.

The American has been in outstanding form around the Middle Eastern circuit all day, using free practice to understand the rigours of one of the calendar's longest layouts and then putting his data to good use in provisional qualifying.

Hitting the front at just over the half way mark, Spies sat top for some time with a lap of 1min 59.456secs, four tenths quicker than his closest competitor, before completing the inevitable in the final minutes of the session with the a 1min 58.886secs, the only lap to dip under 1min 59secs.

Adding to Yamaha's joy after Cal Crutchlow took provisional pole position in the Supersport category, Spies was always in the reckoning, but allowed Japanese riders Shinya Nakano and Ryuichi Kiyonari to hit the front early on, the pair sharing the top spot before Spies moved ahead.

Despite being overshadowed by Spies, Rea enjoyed a good performance on the Ten Kate Honda, the Northern Irishman just three tenths adrift of the Yamaha rider and well ahead of third position after also lowering his best lap in the latter stages.

Behind him, the order changed repeatedly, particularly towards the end of the session, with team-mate Carlos Checa eventually moving up to third having only featured on the fringes of the top ten for much of the hour.

In fact, several riders used the final minutes to make their pitch for the weekend, with Max Biaggi leaping from 16th to fourth on the Aprilia, while Shane Byrne was another to make a big gain to go from 15th to sixth. Kiyonari's Honda separated the pair in fifth.

Jakub Smrz continued to fly the flag for both privateers and Ducati, the Czech rider up in seventh place, with Michel Fabrizio proving the manufacturer's best factory representative in eighth. Championship leading team-mate Noriyuki Haga, meanwhile, was never in contention for anything better than his eventual 11th place as he continues to seemingly pace himself.

Regis Laconi moved up from being outside the top twenty in free practice to snare a provisional ninth, ahead of Nakano, the Japanese rider's early lap time enough to keep him inside the top ten for the session's entirety.

Elsewhere, practice pace setter Max Neukirchner was a disappointing 13th on the Suzuki, while BMW's early promise faded with Troy Corser and Ruben Xaus 16th and 17th respectively.

Brits Tom Sykes and Leon Haslam will also be bemused to have 12th and 19th next to their names after the first day, although the former did experience a technical problem. Nonetheless, despite their lowly positions, just one second separates Haslam on a provisional fifth row to Checa on the first, while the ever-improving conditions around the dusty desert circuit should ensure that improvements will come in final qualifying tomorrow.



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