Kawasaki's qualifying king Tom Sykes blasted his way to the top of Friday qualifying at the final World Superbike race of the season in Magny-Cours, France.

The undisputed Superpole king-eight poles in 13 races-seized back control near the end of the session with his fastest lap. The lap time of 1:38.200 mins. knocked Althea Racing Ducati's Carlos Checa from the top spot with authority. The gap to Checa is .448 secs.; the gap from Checa to the next 11 riders is less than a second.

Sykes is one of two riders with a mathematical chance of taking the World Superbike title, but he has an uphill battle. Aprilia's Max Biaggi leads the Englishman trails the Roman 347 to 316.5 ahead of this weekend's two races. Biaggi qualified seventh fastest, half a second behind Checa.

Friday's third fastest rider, BMW's Marco Melandri, has an even slimmer chance of the taking the title. Melandri was in the thick of the chase before the past two rounds, when he failed to score a single point in four races. He now trails Sykes by eight points and Biaggi by 38.5.

Davide Giugliano, Checa's teammate, finished the day fourth fastest ahead of Honda World Superbike's Jonathan Rea. Rea, from Northern Ireland, is competing for the fifth weekend in a row, having filled in for Repsol Honda's Casey Stoner at the previous two MotoGP races. Stoner will return for next weekend's Japanese Grand Prix in Motegi.

Then comes Michel Fabrizio, the BMW Motorrad Italia GoldBet rider who finished only .005 sec. ahead of Biaggi. Biaggi, in turn, had the same gap on Leon Haslam, Melandri's teammate for the final time. Haslam is moving to the Honda World Superbike team next year.

FIXI Crescent Suzuki's John Hopkins qualified 17th in what could be his final race for the team. The American has suffered through an injury-plagued season, only recent consistently scoring points and mostly outside the top ten. Hopkins has two top ten finishes this season.

Magny-Cours World Superbike Qualifying:
1. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) 1:38.200
2. Carlos Checa (Ducati) 1:38.648
3. Marco Melandri (BMW) 1:38.742
4. Davide Giugliano (Ducati) 1:38.962
5. Jonathan Rea (Honda) 1:39.014
6. Michel Fabrizio (BMW) 1:39.139
7. Max Biaggi (Aprilia) 1:39.144
8. Leon Haslam (BMW) 1:39.149
9. Sylvain Guintoli (Ducati) 1:39.186
10. Leon Camier (Suzuki) 1:39.285
17. John Hopkins (Suzuki) 1:40.538

By Cycle News Staff

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