Sykes second as title beckons
Tom Sykes will bid to secure his maiden World Superbike title from second place on the starting grid at Jerez on Sunday.
Sykes was narrowly outpaced by Ireland's Eugene Laverty in qualifying.
British rider Sykes has dominated Superpole sessions in 2013, claiming top spot eight times in 13 races heading into this weekend, but the Kawasaki man had to play second best to his nearest title challenger on Saturday.
Sykes goes into Sunday's two races leading the riders' standings by 37 points from Aprilia Racing's Laverty, who served notice of his intention to spoil the Yorkshireman's party by posting a best time of one minute 40.620 seconds.
However, it would be a major surprise were the title to ultimately escape Sykes, who qualified just four-hundredths of a second slower than Laverty and needs only to finish third in Sunday's opening race to be guaranteed the title.
Laverty's team-mate Sylvain Guintoli is the only other man in the title reckoning at the final round but he could only manage fifth on the grid behind Davide Giugliano (Althea Aprilia) and Marco Melandri (BMW).
Meanwhile, World Superbike star Carlos Checa announced his retirement on Saturday, bring to an end a 20-year career which started in 125cc racing in 1993 before progressing through 250cc, 500cc, MotoGP and finally to Superbikes in 2008.
Checa won 24 of the 135 World Superbikes races he contested and was crowned champion in 2011. However, his 2013 season came to a premature end after suffering a bad accident at Istanbul last month.
"This year I am celebrating 20 years of racing at world championship level," said Checa.
"I am extremely proud of this long sporting career, which has given me many special memories of all the teams I have worked with.
"There is a moment that will always arrive in the life of a sportsman, the day on which you say enough is enough.
"This day has arrived for me today. It was not an easy decision, but one that I've thought long and hard about."