Ten Kate Honda's Chris Vermeulen shattered the lap record in a mind-blowing finale to the first qualifying session as he took provisional pole position in round 10 of the World Supersport championship at Imola, Italy on Friday.
"I just put my head down and went flat out to go as quick as possible. The bike felt really comfortable and we had a great rear race tyre," said Vermeulen, who is only eight points away from clinching the world crown.
In a spectacular qualifying session, 10 riders improved on the lap record, set by Fabien Foret in 2001. Vermeulen's time of 1m 52.918s claimed provisional pole, 16 hundredths of a second faster than Japanese title rival, Katsuaki Fujiwara.
Ten Kate team-mate Karl Muggeridge - looking for back-to-back wins following his success at Assen, Holland - continued his rich vein of form to post the third quickest time - only 0.149s down on Vermeulen with another title pretender, Stephane Chambon in fourth.
"I just couldn't build up the perfect lap due to some backmarkers playing around," said Muggeridge, who is fifth in the championship points standings.
Team manager Ronald ten Kate was suitably pleased: "It was a good start to the weekend and relieves a lot of pressure. We had a pretty good race tyre and our aim is to build gradually over the weekend and keep something in store for the race."
Vermeulen shrugged off any championship talk: "For me, it was just another qualifying session and I am not thinking about the title. It might cross my mind a little during the race!"
Ten Kate had said that the 'layout' of the 4.933km Enzo and Dino Ferrari circuit would suit the Honda CBR600RR pocket rockets and in a fiercely- fought first qualifying session, they have come out on top.
Friday's World Supersport championship qualifying times:
1 Chris Vermeulen, Australia (Ten Kate Honda) 1m 52.918s, 2 5 Katsuaki Fujiwara, Japan (Suzuki) 1m 52.934s, 3 Karl Muggeridge, Australia (Ten Kate Honda) 1m 53.067s, 4 Stephane Chambon, France (Suzuki) 1m 53.118s, 5 Gianluca Nannelli, Italy (Yamaha) 1m 53.566s, 6 Sebastien Charpentier, France (Honda) 1m 53.608s, 7 Jurgen van den Goorbergh, Holland (Yamaha) 1m 53.715s, 8 Matthieu Lagrive, France (Yamaha) 1m 53.870s, 9 Robert Ulm, Austria (Honda) 1m 53.871s, 10 Alessio Corradi, Italy (Yamaha) 1m 53.932s.