Tom Sykes will start tomorrow's World Superbike races from pole position after a scintillating performance in the final Superpole session. The two knockout sessions indicated that the Yorkshireman was set for a head-to-head shootout with Carlos Checa but the reigning champion was left trailing in SP3.
Sykes was so quick that he only bothered doing one run in the final session and it resulted in the fastest ever Superbike lap of Imola, a 1:46.748. Sylvain Guintoli had held provisional pole but dropped to second and not even a late charge from Checa could dislodge him, with the Spaniard having to settle for third.
Leon Haslam all-but-matched Checa to take the final place on the front row meaning Max Biaggi will have a rider between him and his chief rival. The championship leader was quiet throughout the three sessions and never looked a genuine pole contender, finishing 0.863s behind Sykes. The Italian will have Marco Melandri right next to him in sixth while Jonathan Rea will line-up seventh, if he starts at all. The Ulsterman suffered a nasty high side at the Villeneuve chicane at the end of SP3 and landed very heavily. He walked away but will surely need the ok from the medical centre before racing.
While Sykes led SP3, Joan Lascorz was the slowest man on the second Kawasaki, leaving him back in eighth, while Ducatis fill five of the next six grid positions. PATA Racing's Lorenzo Zanetti took an excellent ninth ahead of Jakub Smrz with Eugene Laverty the odd man out amid a pack of 1098Rs, the Irishman qualifying 11th. Davide Giugliano is 12th after crashing in SP2 while Maxime Berger and Niccolo Canepa head up row four.
Leon Camier is next up in the leading Crescent Suzuki as John Hopkins works his way back to fitness. The American is making his racing return this weekend but with his fitness still improving, he could do no better than 19th, two places behind another former injury victim in Chaz Davies.