Factory Kawasaki rider Tom Sykes will start on pole position for today and tomorrow’s World Superbike races at Phillip Island after taking the 31st Superpole victory of his career in a thrilling session this morning.
Sykes, like the majority of those making it through to Superpole 2, left it until the very closing moments to show his hand and the Yorkshireman was rewarded as his put the ZX-10R on top spot with a record-breaking 1’30.020.
The session had been ticking along at a normal rate with ten minutes remaining as Sylvain Guintoli held onto a tentative lead and continued to post consecutively consistent laps, though he was usurped by Davide Giugliano with just under ten to go.
At that stage the front row was looking like a line-up of Giugliano and the Pata Yamaha duo of Guintoli and Alex Lowes, with Sykes only down in seventh, but the drama was yet to come.
In came the bulk of the Superpole 2 riders to prepare for the final assault, with Aruba.it Ducati’s Chaz Davies one of the first to emerge on his qualifier, swiftly followed by the likes of Jonathan Rea, Nicky Hayden, Sykes and Giugliano.
Davies was flying on his hot lap with just minutes remaining and the Welshman’s 1’30.717 had him in top spot for a few moments – literally – followed by an impressive Leon Camier in second, but the duo soon found themselves bumped way down into ninth and tenth respectively.
A flurry of riders coming home behind Davies and Camier swapped places at the sharp end as Van Der Mark took top spot only to be denied by Rea who in turn lost out to Sykes as the 2013 champion got his year off to the perfect start.
Davide Giugliano slotted into second courtesy of his own particular effort with seconds remaining, splitting the Kawasakis and banishing the ghosts of 2015, when the Italian suffered badly in an accident at the Australian season-opener.
When the activity had settled down the times showed Guintoli and Lowes secured a strong fourth and fifth for Yamaha, with Van Der Mark joining them on row two.
The Dutchman’s Honda team-mate Nicky Hayden did enough for seventh, ahead of Lorenzo Savadori, Davies and Camier.
Markus Reiterberger, in his first visit to the Phillip Island circuit, took 11th place ahead of Jordi Torres. BSB Champion Josh Brookes will start both races from 14th place after he failed to get through from Superpole 1.