Carlos Checa laid down the fastest of the flying laps in the Superpole contest on Saturday late afternoon at Miller Motorsports Park to snare the pole position for Sunday's first race in the FIM World Superbike Championship's USA event.
On the 3.048-mile outer loop on the circuit designed by Alan Wilson, the Spaniard came out of the pits on his Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR knowing that his bike was tuned in for the sixth round of competition.
Checa had been one of the fastest five in the four on-track sessions since the riders took to the venue for the first time on Friday. He and the track seemed to have meshed well together, a fact he proved when he hit a time of 1:48.193 to land his first career pole.
"We worked well today. I tried to be as clean and effective as possible," said Checa. "I knew that I was able to be in the 48s, but I didn't expect 48 low and when I saw that time it was a great surprise and a great satisfaction to be on the pole for the first time."
His Honda was dialed in perfectly as Checa had taken the top time in the final practice leading up to the Superpole challenge. The top 16 qualifiers were all looking to take the top slot on the grid, Checa was the 13th on the list with the fourth best time during the two qualifying practices.
Checa now owns the track record, the first record at the new venue for the Hannspree World Superbike series was set by Troy Bayliss on Friday in the first 60 minute practice round at 1:50.710, nearly three seconds slower.
The riders have shown steadily improvement since their first time on the fast but tricky circuit. The main straight has seen top speeds reached over 190 mph on the first two days of action.
Today belonged to Checa but his competitors are not far off; it is expected that both races tomorrow, June 1, will be a good battle, one that the fans who have ventured to the track in Tooele, Utah (near Salt Lake City) to see the return of the world-class superbikes at an American road course.
"Now the start tomorrow is the next step we need to improve! I will try to do a good race tomorrow; for sure we have some chance of winning, because we have shown our potential in the last few races, and especially here," said Checa. "The bike is now working well and I'm also confident with the tires, so you never know."
First-time series winner at Monza, Max Neukirchner, held the top spot as the 11th rider to make the run for the pole. Riding for Team Alstare Suzuki, the German did not like the track on Friday but today, he seemed to find the right setup and showed his real speed.
Neukirchner was aiming for his second pole of the season and laid down a 1:48.504, knocking Michel Fabrizio off the top spot by three-tenths of a second. The first German to win a world superbike race was all smiles knowing he had notched a good flying lap on his Suzuki GSX-R1000. Checa was quicker by 0.311 seconds.
"I'm really happy about the position and I think I did a great lap. I had some problems yesterday with the chassis," said Neukirchner. "I think we found a good race set-up, and I hope I'm tomorrow I'm in front. Here on this track it's going to be really hard; the times are very close and I'm sure it'll be a big fight."
Still to come were the two "Troy's" from Australia who, along with Checa, had been setting the fastest times. Corser for the Yamaha Motor Italia WSB team and Bayliss for Ducati Xerox Team were the fastest two in the two rounds of qualifying. Bayliss would be the 15th rider to make the run for the pole followed by Corser whose 1:49.224 that he hit in this morning's qualifying practice would be the final rider in the Superpole contest.
Before the two Aussies, Kawasaki PSG-1 Corse's rider Regis Laconi would have his chance. The Frenchman has seven career poles and was aiming for his first one in 2008. On his Kawasaki ZX-10R, Laconi who appeared to have had a bobble clocked off a time of 1:49.206. He ended seventh best.
Bayliss was up next on his Ducati 1098 F08, he came close but missed Checa's time by 0.411 seconds. For his efforts, he slotted third quickest, only one-tenth of a second off the pace of Neukirchner.
"It was the best time I've done here at the Miller Motorsports track so far and I thought maybe my time would be good enough but I was actually half a second off in the end. It's always a good challenge coming to a new track and it will undoubtedly make for great racing," commented Bayliss.
Corser was next out and never came close on the first split and when he went wide off the line on his Yamaha YZF-R1, one knew that he would not score his 42nd career pole. Corser slots fifth on the starting grid.
Fabrizio, who held the provisional pole until the German knocked him off of it, will start on the front row. The Italian slots next to his teammate, Bayliss, for the standing start at high noon (MDT) Sunday.
"I am very happy as to start from the first row for the second time this season is a great feeling," Fabrizio said. "We will see tomorrow, I will have to fight for positions at the front against several very strong riders but this at least means that we'll be seeing some great racing."
Corser will be joined on the second row by Ruben Xaus, Laconi and Yukio Kagayama. On the third row are the two injured riders. Max Biaggi with a fractured finger from the second race at Monza and Noriyuki Haga who was a surprise making the attempt, returning to the track after breaking his right collarbone in morning qualifying. Haga will decide, along with his medical advisors, on whether he will start the race tomorrow.
Jakub Smrz and Karl Muggeridge will grid alongside Biaggi and Haga. The fourth row belongs to Fonsi Nieto, Shuhei Aoyama, Lorenzo Lanzi and Ayrton Badovini, filling out the top 16 slots out of the 29 holding starting positions.