Kawasaki’s Jonathan Rea will start from the third row of the grid at Sepang in Malaysia after qualifying seventh on the Ninja ZX-10R.
Rea, who can potentially clinch the World Superbike title on Sunday prior to the series summer break, ran wide during Superpole qualifying after hitting a neutral and lost valuable time.
However, the Northern Ireland star remains confident for Sunday’s two races and no wonder, with Rea winning 11 of the 18 races held so far to stretch a commanding lead in the championship.
The 28-year-old can secure the world title if he manages to stretch his championship lead by a further 25 points over team-mate Tom Sykes, who qualified on pole.
Sykes is currently 125 points behind Rea, who would become Northern Ireland’s first motorcycling world champion since Joey Dunlop and Brian in 1986 should he mange the feat, albeit with a significant slice of luck required.
If Rea doesn’t obtain the points advantage he needs to lift the title with three rounds of the championship remaining, then the champagne is surely only on ice until the series resume at Jerez in Spain on September 20.
Rea said: “During Superpole, in Turn 9, when I shifted to first gear I found neutral. I could not stop the bike and it was really difficult to engage first gear. In the end I blipped the throttle and found it but there was a big reaction from the bike and I went wide.
“That ruined my best lap there. I pushed really hard to recover the time and had another little moment in the last corner. It was difficult because we had the pace to be on the front row,” he added.
“Even my ideal time, if you take the race tyre sector into account, is third fastest, so I am a little bit frustrated because it makes the races a little bit harder tomorrow.
“Not impossible, but harder. My guys have still given me a good bike with the limited amount of time we have had in the dry. My riding style and where the setting of the bike has gone this weekend means I am feeling very confident that we can have at least some tyre left at the end compared to our rivals,” said Rea.
“I expect to finish the race strongly but it is going to be difficult in the first laps – not as difficult as Laguna because this track presents a lot more passing opportunities.”
Sykes headed Aprilia’s Jordi Torres and reigning world champion Sylvain Guintoli (Pata Honda) in Superpole 2, with Max Biaggi (Aprilia), Voltcom Crescent Suzuki’s Alex Lowes and Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Ducati) on row two.