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Ten Kate Honda's Jonathan Rea grabbed World Superbike provisional pole position by less than a tenth of a second from Jakub Smrz at Portimao this afternoon in the opening qualifying session.

The young Irishman was just eight one-hundredths quicker than the Guandalini Ducati man, with Rea's team-mate Carlos Checa in fourth and Sterilgarda Yamaha's Ben Spies grabbing the third-place spot with his final lap.

Spies' lap was quick enough to bump Sterilgarda Ducati's Shane Byrne to the head of row two with DFX Ducati's Fonsi Nieto in sixth, Michel Fabrizio on the Xerox Ducati seventh and Aprilia's Max Biaggi eighth.
There will be some head-scratching in the factory Ducati garage as championship leader Noriyuki Haga ended the session in ninth after only going maqrginally faster than his time this morning while riders around him have knocked more than a second off their times.


Byrne led the way early doors, going straight under the 1'45 mark with a 1'44.899 with Spies and Fabrizio not far behind. The Italian then took the lead with a 1'44.597 as Aprilia's Leon Camier put himself in eighth with a 1'45.719.

The Sterilgarda Ducati man's next run of laps saw him re-take the lead with a 1'44.446, which Fabrizio very nearly matched but it wasn't until half of the session was over that Guandalini Ducati's Jakub Smrz hit the top of the sheets, ducking into the late 1'43s bracket.

Fabrizio, Haga and Rea then started a scrap for the rest of the front-row positions as the pace was upped and the top six men were lapping in the mid-1'44s.

Rea put in his provisional pole time with ten minutes left, lapping in 1'43.786 as DFX Ducati's Fonsi Nieto made his bid for the front row, taking fourth with a 1'44.055. Byrne usurped him with three minutes left, posting a 1'43.947 but Spies went third with his final lap.

Stiggy Honda's Leon Haslam ended up tenth, after being as high as fifth in the closing stages. Tom Sykes was just ahead of Leon Camier in 18th after both lapped in the mid-1'45s. Ex-BSB man Sylvain Guintoli ended in 22nd, 1.7s off the pace.

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