So much for championship hangovers. It doesn't appear that Althea Racing Ducati's Carlos Checa has any plans to ease up on the competition, the newly crowned World Superbike Champion earning provisional pole position today for Sunday's two races at Portimao in Portugal.

Checa showed signs of letting someone else lead the way this morning when he was bested by Castrol Honda's Jonathan Rea, but the Spaniard bounced back when it counted this afternoon to post the quickest time of the day - a 1:43.579 - with nine minutes to go in the session.Rea, meanwhile, dropped to fourth, the Northern Irelander going faster than he did this morning, but not fast enough.

Eugene Laverty jumped up to second in the afternoon session, the Yamaha factory rider improving from seventh in the morning practice session. Laverty ended up just .087 of a second behind Checa and just .194 of a second in front of Team Effenbert-Liberty Racing Ducati's Sylvain Guintoli.Then came Rea to make up the provisional front row.Fifth fastest was the returning Max Biaggi, the 2010 World Superbike Champion back after missing races with a broken foot. Biaggi rode the factory Aprilia to a best of 1:43.907 - .328 behind Checa. Not a bad return.

Joan Lascorz put the Kawasaki into sixth, marginally ahead of his teammate Tom Sykes. Then came Marco Melandri on the second factory Yamaha - just half a second behind Checa and in eighth place.PATA Racing Aprilia's Noriyuki Haga and Team Effenbert-Liberty's Jakub Smrz rounded out the top 10.The only crasher among the top men was Aprilia's Leon Camier, the Brit ending up well down the order in 14th place. Still, he was just a tick over a second slower than Checa as the top 13 were within a second of the World Champion.Friday Qualifying

1.                  Carlos Checa (Ducati) 1:43.579

2.                  Eugene Laverty (Yamaha) 1:43.666

3.                  Sylvain Guintoli (Ducati) 1:43.860

4.                  Jonathan Rea (Honda) 1:43.895

5.                  Max Biaggi (Aprilia) 1:43.907

6.                  Joan Lascorz (Kawasaki) 1:44.030

7.                  Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) 1:44.111

8.                  Marco Melandri (Yamaha) 1:44.112

9.                  Noriyuki Haga (Aprilia) 1:44.144

10.                  Jakub Smrz (Ducati) 1:44.201


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By Cycle News Staff

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