Team Alstare Suzuki Corona Extra stand in rider Max Neukirchner has taken second place on the grid for tomorrow's final-round World Superbike Championship round at Magny Cours in France.
The young German, covering for injured Yukio Kagayama, recorded a time of 1'38.501, a whisker behind pole-setter James Toseland (1'38.501).
Despite only riding the Alstare Suzuki GSX-R1000 K7 for the first time yesterday, he immediately got on terms with the bike and was a force to be reckoned with throughout practice and qualifying.
In this afternoon's 16-rider shoot-out he blasted round the 4.411 kilometre track in 1:38.524 and was only deprived of Superpole by a determined James Toseland (Honda). At the end, the margin between him and Toseland was only 0.023, so he will start alongside the series leader in tomorrow's pair of 23-lap races.Max Biaggi, who is looking to lift the title in tomorrow's two races, finished in sixth with a time of 1'38.982.
Max Neukirchner, 'I am so happy to be on the front row of the grid after today, especially as I've only been on this bike a total of about three and a half hours. Everything about this bike is different to my Suzuki Germany bike and I really like riding it. The chassis, engine and brakes all feel so much better and I can push it a lot harder. I still find it a bit hard to believe how well these two days have gone and I'm hoping that it all continues. I would like to finish on the podium tomorrow, but we shall have to see what happens in the races, as I know that I have to ride for the team.'
Max Biaggi, 'Every time I go out I learn the track a bit more, so it's no big surprise that my best lap was in Superpole. I have been consistently improving my lap times throughout the weekend and I feel I can run at a consistently good pace now. Of course we still have some things to work out, so we will look at all the telemetry tonight and decide what changes to make for the warm-up tomorrow.'