Max Biaggi (Aprilia Alitalia) scorched round the new-look Donington Park circuit in a blistering time of 1 minute 28.794 seconds to head off a challenge from Marco Melandri (Yamaha World Superbike) as the Superbike riders concluded their first qualifying session. Biaggi's final advantage over Melandri was just a fraction (0.047 seconds) with the two Italians the only riders into the 1'28 bracket as they duelled in the spring sunshine.
Double Aussie race winner Carlos Checa was also on the pace, grabbing the lead in the middle of the session, but the Althea Racing man eventually ended up third, while Eugene Laverty (Yamaha World Superbike) completed the overnight front row in impressive style.
Jakub Smrz (Effenbert - Liberty Ducati) also boomed his big twin-cylinder machine around the curves of Donington in very pleasant weather conditions to go fifth overall.
The hard-fought session saw a series of surprises and changes of fortune as both Leon Haslam and Troy Corser were up amongst the frontrunners for a while on their BMW S1000RR machines, finishing sixth and seventh respectively. Ruben Xaus was top CBR rider on his Castrol Honda machine, while team-mate Jonathan Rea struggled somewhat to go 16th.
Rookie rider Joan Lascorz (Kawasaki Racing Team) was the top Kawasaki competitor, ninth, while local man Leon Camier (Aprilia Alitalia) went tenth. Two fallers today were Ayrton Badovini (BMW Motorrad Italia) and Michel Fabrizio (Suzuki Alstare).
The modified track layout, with the Esses now widened at the exit, brought universal praise, although exactly how much of the improvement in overall lap times is due to the new sections is still a cause for discussion.
Chris Vermeulen returned to the WSBK fray today, going within 2.7 seconds of the leaders on his Kawasaki Racing Team ZX-10R, despite being not fully fit yet.
Following his win in the opening round of the season, Italian Luca Scassa (Yamaha ParkinGO) continued his excellent run of form by setting the provisional pole at the end of this afternoon's first Supersport qualifying session. His time of 1 minute 31.232 seconds was just a fraction quicker than Britain's Sam Lowes, in second place on the Parkalgar Honda machine.
The two Motocard.com Kawasaki ZX-6Rs were next up, with Australia's Broc Parkes ahead of Spain's David Salom. Local man Chaz Davies was fifth fastest on his Yamaha ParkinGO R6, and two more Brits were inside the top 10, with Gino Rea (Step Racing Honda) in sixth and James Ellison (Bogdanka PTR Honda) two places behind.
Impressive privateer Robbin Harms (Harms Benjan Racing Team) went seventh, the last rider within a second of Scassa’s new best lap.