Ben Spies has swept to his second consecutive World Superbike pole position after setting a stunning record-breaking pace at Losail, Qatar.

The American has been on stellar form throughout the weekend, but continued to surpass his rookie status as he pumped in a single lap of 1min 57.280secs during the top eight shootout.

It means he has smashed Troy Corser's existing lap record, also set on a Yamaha, by eight tenths of a second, even if Max Biaggi had initially lowered it to a 1min 57.8secs during Q2 a few minutes earlier.

A second consecutive pole position for the Texan, his efforts in the Middle East are arguably more impressive than on his debut in Australia, Spies having arrived in Qatar without any prior knowledge of the Losail circuit.

Nonetheless, while he cut it rather fine during Q2 with the seventh quickest lap, he couldn't be touched during the shootout as he continued to re-write the rules for rookies in the World Superbike Championship.

Another enjoyable Superpole session fraught with the surprises indicative of the close competition in 2009, three of the front row starters from the first round in Australia would repeat their feats in Qatar, with Spies being joined by Jakub Smrz and Biaggi.

Smrz, who hinted at his potential with a fine lap in Q2, ran Spies surprisingly close on the privateer Guandalini Ducati, just one tenth behind. Another example of the Czech's remarkable one-lap pace, it remains to be seen whether he can carry that form through to the races.

Although he went quicker than his erstwhile lap record in the shootout, Biaggi was a distant third on the Aprilia, but was pleased with his efforts nonetheless, not least because it put him ahead of Noriyuki Haga on the leading factory Ducati.

To his credit, Haga sliced three seconds off his best lap from provisional qualifying when it mattered, the Japanese rider having only just sneaked into the shootout with a post-chequered flag lap. Still, despite Spies's evident advantage, having won from 13th in Australia, Haga will be feeling a little more confident today than he did this time two weeks ago.

Although there are familiar sights the front row, this particular shootout was notable for the fact that four riders were experiencing it for the first time; Haga, Tom Sykes, Shinya Nakano and Shane Byrne.

For Sykes and Byrne, reaching the top eight proved a significant boost for the British fans after three of the five-strong contingent were lost in Q1. It was also an important personal achievement following their difficult experiences in Australia, but with Sykes keeping up his momentum to qualify fifth and Byrne clinging onto the second row in eighth, they are in good positions to have made headway by the end of the weekend.

Early on there was disappointment for countrymen Jonathan Rea, Leon Haslam and Tommy Hill, who all fell out of contention when they could only manage the 17th, 18th and 20th best times. Rea and Max Neukirchner, who also tumbled out in 19th, were caught out by tactics, the former not anticipating the rate of improvement from those behind him as he sat in the pits, while Neukirchner didn't get round in time to start his quick final lap.

Their disappointment allowed a few unsung heroes into Q2, including Roberto Rolfo, who brightened a potential dismal day for Stiggy Honda by very nearly reaching the shootout. Although the Italian will be pleased with ninth, he will be frustrated to have missed out on going one better by 0.010secs.

He will be joined on the third row by Michel Fabrizio, who found himself bumped down his by own team-mate before landing in tenth, Regis Laconi and Ryuichi Kiyonari, the latter doing well to even set a representative time after crashing at the start of Q2.

Although the nature of the Superpole format means it won't be classified anywhere, Broc Parkes and Kawasaki can still take great heart from the fact they entered Q2 having gone third quickest in Q1. While the Aussie rider couldn't repeat that form, 13th still allowed Kawasaki to out-qualify both Suzuki and BMW, who rounded out 14th, 15th and 16th with Yukio Kagayama, Troy Corser and Ruben Xaus.



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