It was a fast and furious end to today's first World Superbike qualifying session at the Ricardo Tormo Circuit in Valencia, Spain, but when it was all said and done it was Spaniard Carlos Checa at the top - just as he had been in this morning's free practice session.
But for awhile it didn't look like the Althea Ducati rider would be there when it ended. First it was Aprilia's Max Biaggi who shot to the top with his 1:35.156 already under what Checa had done in the morning session. But Checa too improved, going to the pointy end of the field with his 1:34.768. That would hold up until with some 19 minutes to go in the session his teammate shot past, with Shane Byrne hold it until very late when first Jakub Smrz and then Checa took over.
Despite some big efforts from the others, the 1:34.220 that Checa threw down with just over six minutes to go held up. But not through a lack of trying as Ducati Xerox's Michel Fabrizio and BMW's Troy Corser both crashed in the waning moments while trying to improve.
Smrz ended up holding on to second with Byrne third. Biaggi fills the provisional front row for Sunday's two races, with championship leader Leon Haslam fifth on the Alstare Suzuki.
Fabrizio held on for sixth, one spot better than Haga, who won both races at Valencia last year. Haga was the last rider to crack the 1:35 barrier as the top 12 riders circulated within a second of Checa's best.
Lorenzo Lanzi put his Ducati in eighth with Sterilgarda Yamaha's Cal Crutchlow ninth and Aprilia's Leon Camier 10th. Sylvain Guintoli and James Toseland were the final two riders on the same second as Checa with Toseland just .983 of a second behind in 12th spot.
It was a Ducati day at a track that has long favored the V-twins with six of them in the top 10.
Roger Lee Hayden improved his time from this morning but ended up 22nd on the Pedercini Kawasaki.
1. Carlos Checa (Ducati) 1:34.220
2. Jakub Smrz (Ducati) 1:34.502
3. Shane Byrne (Ducati) 1:34.690
4. Max Biaggi (Aprilia) 1:34.771
5. Leon Haslam (Suzuki) 1:34.780
6. Michel Fabrizio (Ducati) 1:34.780
7. Noriyuki Haga (Ducati) 1:34.935
8. Lorenzo Lanzi (Ducati) 1:35.049
9. Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha) 1:35.052
10. Leon Camier (Aprilia) 1:35.132