Althea Ducati's Carlos Checa picked up where he left off from pre-season Phillip Island testing, the Spaniard locking down provisional pole position for Sunday's two races at Phillip Island - the site of the World Superbike Championship opener.Although Checa completely dominated the test session earlier this week, the rest having gained some ground and are within striking distance of the veteran after the first day of official work at the track. Checa lapped the fast and scenic Phillip Island in 1:31.577 but Frenchman Sylvain Guintoli was just .3 of a second behind on his privateer Ducati Effenbert entry with a 1:312.850."Basically, we worked with the tires this afternoon, just to make choices for race day," Checa said. "I felt good today, but I think the grip was just a little bit less from the racetrack. We used the ‘big' rear tire and had similar results to the previous ones, so if we do that I prefer to continue with the existing tires for now. Tomorrow we will just work towards race day again, do a comparison with the tires and then do some longer runs on the tire we expect to use for the race."Third today went to World Superbike rookie Eugene Laverty, the factory Yamaha man turning in a 1:31.969 to best World Champion Max Biaggi on the provisional front row. Biaggi wasn't able to creep into the 1:31s, the Italian ending up with a best of 1:32.009."I'm very satisfied with my position today," Laverty said. "I didn't expect to be that high up in the standings although my aim was to do a 1:31 to get me through to Superpole tomorrow, so I was expecting the lap time but not the position. We learned a bit more today for our race set up, but we still need to work on a bit of consistency. Thankfully, we can now focus tomorrow morning on race set up."The second row on the provisional grid is led by Team Effenbert-Liberty Racing's Jakub Smrz, the Czech rider leading the BMW of Leon Haslam, the Alstare Suzuki of Michel Fabrizio and the Kawasaki of Joan Lascorz."I feel pretty happy with my seventh today, especially when you consider how close the lap times are," Fabrizio said after his first qualifying run as a Suzuki factory rider. "Just three-tenths faster and I would've finished second quickest today, so I know that we are in contention. I would've felt even happier, but I had a little crash towards the end of this afternoon's qualifying session when I lost the front going into turn two. It happened so quickly that I didn't have time to recover. It's a shame and I want to say sorry to my mechanics because it means that they've extra work to do tonight. Fortunately, I was unhurt in the crash and all I did was scrape my leathers."The top nine riders were on the same second with Castrol Honda's Jonathan Rea bouncing back from his high-speed crash and subsequent trip to the hospital during testing to record a 1:32.424.Wild card Aussie Josh Waters was 10th on the Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000, leading countryman Troy Corser and the factory BMW and the factory Yamaha of Marco Melandri in the process.

Friday Qualifying

1.                  Carlos Checa (Ducati) 1:31.577

2.                  Sylvain Guintoli (Ducati) 1:31.850

3.                  Eugene Laverty (Yamaha) 1:31.969

4.                  Max Biaggi (Aprilia) 1:32.009

5.                  Jakub Smrz (Ducati) 1:32.066

6.                  Leon Haslam (BMW) 1:32.082

7.                  Michel Fabrizio (Suzuki) 1:32.108

8.                  Joan Lascorz (Kawasaki) 1:32.163

9.                  Jonathan Rea (Honda) 1:32.424

10.                  Josh Waters (Suzuki) 1:32.690

 

World Superbike Headlines

Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor

Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.

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