Carlos Checa is continuing to exert a stranglehold on the top of the World Superbike timesheets at Phillip Island after maintaining a comfortable margin back to his rivals in first qualifying.

Including the four test sessions earlier this week, Checa has now topped five from six around the Australian circuit, enhancing his status as the man to beat this weekend.

Even so, having commanded a six tenths gap over his closest rival in FP1, the competition were at least able to close the gap in Q1, with Sylvain Guintoli taking up the challenge in second position three tenths adrift.

In all, only three riders broke into the 1min 31secs bracket, with Ducati duo Checa and Guintoli being joined by Eugene Laverty, the Irishman putting in an accomplished effort 20 minutes into the session to get himself well amongst the front runners.

Save for Checa, it was a close session for those behind, with second to eighth covered by less than three tenths of a second.

A late improvement pushed Max Biaggi up to fourth position, ahead of Jakub Smrz, while Leon Haslam was again well inside the top ten in sixth having seemingly now discovered a useable set-up on the BMW S1000RR.

Michel Fabrizio was seventh on the sole Alstare Suzuki - despite a crash at turn two in the closing stages -, while FP1 standouts Joan Lascorz and Jonathan Rea were eighth and ninth fastest.

Flying the flag for Australia on home soil, former domestic Superbike champion Josh Waters crept into the top ten aboard the wild-card Yoshimura Suzuki, placing ahead of countryman Troy Corser in 11th position.

Behind them, Marco Melandri languished in the lower reaches of the top twenty for much of the session after falling early on, though he would later progress to 12th.

With the decision to cull four riders from automatic Superpole qualification for 2011, greater emphasis will be placed on Q2 tomorrow when only the top sixteen will get the chance to progress.

As such, Noriyuki Haga, James Toseland, Leon Camier - who are all on the cusp in 14th, 15th and 16th - and Ruben Xaus, who is actually outside in 19th, will be having some nervous words with their engineers this evening.



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