Althea Racing Ducati's Carlos Checa is on the provisional pole after first qualifying for this weekend's penultimate round of the World Superbike Championship in Imola, Italy.The Spaniard, who'd also been fast in the morning free practice, lapped the 4.936 kms circuit in 1:48.178 mins. after time had expired in the one hour session, held on a day of moderate temperatures.Checa had been fast throughout the session, taking the top spot first early on, then repeatedly throughout the session. Hannspree Ten Kate Honda's recently re-signed Jonny Rea was on top when Checa uncorked his flyer to take honors for the day.His lap was faster than the lap record of 1:48.982, held by Nori Haga from last year, and well off the 1:47.735 mins. qualifying lap run by Michel Fabrizio to take last year's pole.The time was also .380 secs. faster than Rea's, which was the biggest gap in the always tight field. Discounting Checa's time, the next 12 riders were covered by 1.02 secs.Behind Rea came Alstare Suzuki's Leon Haslam, still recovering from a knee injury suffered in Germany, and Haga, on the first of the Xerox Ducatis at the end of the provisional front row.Fabrizio followed on row two in front of Checa's teammate, Shakey Byrne. Sterilgarda Yamaha's Cal Crutchlow was half a tenth back, with Troy Corser (BMW) even closer in eighth.Tom Sykes put the Kawasaki into ninth in front of the second BMW of Ruben Xaus, Lorenzo Lanzi on the DFX Corse Ducati, and James Toseland on the second Sterilgarda Yamaha.Championship leader Max Biaggi (Aprilia Alitalia) was a surprising 14th and 1.435 secs. off Checa's pace. Biaggi had trouble perfecting his chassis settings on the bumpy Imola layout.In his first trip to Imola, Roger Lee Hayden was 19th.Superbike Qualifying:

1. Carlos Checa (Ducati) 1:48.178

2. Jonathan Rea (Honda) 1:48.558

3. Leon Haslam (Suzuki) 1:48.621

4. Noriyuki Haga (Ducati ) 1:48.660

5. Michel Fabrizio (Ducati) 1:48.667

6. Shane Byrne (Ducati) 1:48.752

7. Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha) 1:48.813

8. Troy Corser (BMW) 1:48.851

9. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) 1:48.970

10. Ruben Xaus (BMW) 1:49.224

11. Lorenzo Lanzi (Ducati) 1:49.275

12. James Toseland (Yamaha) 1:49.528

13. Sylvain Guintoli (Suzuki) 1:49.560

14. Max Biaggi (Aprilia) 1:49.613

15. Max Neukirchner (Honda) 1:49.622

16. Jakub Smrz (Aprilia) 1:49.659

17. Luca Scassa (Ducati) 1:49.776

18. Federico Sandi (Aprilia) 1:51.641

19. Roger Lee Hayden (Kawasaki) 1:52.106

20. Fabrizio Lai (Honda) 1:52.200

21. Ian Lowry (Kawasaki) 1:52.248

22. Matteo Baiocco (Kawasaki) 1:52.315

World Superbike Headlines

By Cycle News Staff

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