Maxime Berger produced a real surprise on Friday at Monza, setting the fastest time by a Ducati in first qualifying.

The Frenchman only scored his first points in World Superbikes in race two at Assen, but the 21 year old was a stunning ninth quickest.

This placed him ahead of the Effenbert-Liberty duo of Sylvain Guintoli and Jakub Smrz, but more astonishingly, ahead of championship leader Carlos Checa who languished down in 14th.

The Supersonic Racing rider was ecstatic with his performance, and is setting his sights on the top ten tomorrow.

“I am very happy today, not only because I was the fastest Ducati rider on track, but also because I found a good feeling with my bike and have to thank all the guys for their hard work. This morning we started to work on the bike set-up and we used the set-up from last year here at Monza, and I found it very well. We also tried a new clutch, and it did not give any problems.”

“I was able to do a few fast laps with some of the fastest riders and riding with a softer tyre and I easily managed to stay with them. Tomorrow, I definitely want to get into Superpole. After the first four races I am ready to give the most ambitious results that I and my team can achieve.”

Team manager Danilo Soncini was full of praise for the young Frenchman, and is confident he can continue his impressive performance into the weekend.

“We are very satisfied. To be into the top ten is always satisfying, especially here in Monza where the Ducati bikes will have a harder time than the four cylinders. Maxime and the team did a great job and we really hope tomorrow we can get into Superpole. Maxime has shown today a great consistency of performance and this bodes well for tomorrow and Sunday’s races. We will try some tricks tomorrow morning during the qualifying that might help to lower the lap times a little.”