SHANE 'Shakey' Byrne set a new lap record on the way to securing pole position for the opening round of the British Superbike Championship (BSB) at Brands Hatch.
The HM Plant Honda rider from Kent, making a return to BSB after a two-year absence, dominated qualifying, but he left it late to snatch pole away from team mate Ryuichi Kiyonari. Two blistering laps of the 1.2-mile Indy circuit in the dying minutes broke the lap record and clinched pole by 0.080 seconds.
Byrne said: “That was a great lap. I started Q3 on a used tyre and did a 45.5s lap but then I saw what Kiyonari had done and I couldn't believe it, he needs to slow down a bit. I wanted a front row start but then I saw what Kiyonari did and just went for it with a new tyre. I went out and did a 45.1s and then I tried to get into the 44 second lap time but just couldn't quite get there. That was a great session though and all credit to the HM Plant Honda team.”
With 34 riders primed for action, the first qualifying session of the season began. Loris Baz (Motorpoint Yamaha) and Tommy Hill (Swan Honda) briefly held the top spot before Byrne finished the session fastest. However, as the session ended Steve Brogan (Jentin Racing Honda), Ian Lowry (Buildbase BMW) and Guy Martin (Relentless Suzuki) were the notable riders who failed to progress to qualifying two.
Reigning champion Kiyonari turned heads at the start of the second session, as he surged to the top of the time sheets by breaking the lap record. The record was short-lived as Byrne moved into provisional pole with an impressive lap just 0.088 seconds quicker than his team mate. Swan Honda's Tommy Hill and Michael Laverty were poised in third and fourth.
Moto GP star John Hopkins, riding for Samsung Crescent Racing, struggled to get to grips with the Brands Hatch circuit and he was knocked out of the all important top-10 by Tommy Bridewell late on. Australian Josh Brookes was another shock casualty missing out on a place in qualifying three.
Byrne and Kiyonari went head-to-head to claim pole position in the final session and the pair traded fast times. The Japanese rider set a new lap record and seemed to be heading towards pole position before Byrne lit up the timing screens late on. Byrne and Kiyonari will be joined on the front row by the Swan Honda duo of Laverty and Hill in third and fourth.
Fans' favourites Chris Walker (Pr1mo Kawasaki) and Michael Rutter (Rapid Solicitors-Bathams Ducati) will start from 15th and sixth respectively. Jenny Tinmouth (Splitlath Motorsport Aprilia), the first woman to compete in BSB, will have to wait until next weekend to make her debut as a parts issue forced her to withdraw from the event.
WFR Honda's Graeme Gowland secured pole position in the EVO category, just ahead of team mate Glen Richards.
British Superbike Championship: Brands Hatch: Qualifying:
1. Shane Byrne (HM Plant Honda) 45.112s
2. Ryuichi Kiyonari (HM Plant Honda) 45.192s
3. Michael Laverty (Swan Yamaha) 45.280s
4. Tommy Hill (Swan Yamaha) 45.324s
5. Loris Baz (Motorpoint Yamaha) 45.520s
6. Michael Rutter (Rapid-Bathams Ducati) 45.606s
7. Jon Kirkham (Samsung Crescent Suzuki) 45.627s
8. Tommy Bridewell (Tyco Honda) 45.815s
9. James Westmoreland (Motorpoint Yamaha) 45.892s
10. Stuart Easton (MSS Colchester Kawasaki) 46.059s
11. John Hopkins (Samsung Crescent Suzuki) 45.739s
12. Dan Linfoot (Sorrymate.com SMT Honda) 45.745s
13. Josh Brookes (Relentless Suzuki) 45.813s
14. Martin Jessopp (Rapid-Bathams Ducati) 45.838s
15. Chris Walker (Pr1mo Kawasaki) 45.880s
16. Gary Mason (MSS Colchester Kawasaki) 45.920s
17. Graeme Gowland (WFR Honda) 46.969s (EVO)
18. Glen Richards (WFR Honda) 46.092s (EVO)
19. John Laverty (Buildbase BMW) 46.179s
20. Peter Hickman (Tyco Honda) 46.187s
21. Alex Lowes (WFR Honda) 46.255s (EVO)
22. Steve Brogan (Jentin Honda) 46.345s
23. James Hillier (Bournemouth Kawasaki) 46.353s (EVO)
24. Craig Fitzpatrick (Close Print Honda) 46.394s (EVO)
25. Simon Andrews (PR Kawasaki) 46.443s (EVO)
26. Ian Lowry (Buildbase BMW 46.504s
27. Guy Martin (Relentless Suzuki) 46.579s
28. Barry Burrell (Buildbase BMW) 46.712s (EVO)
29. Hudson Kennaugh (Splitlath Aprilia) 46.726s
30. Patric Muff (Tyco Honda) 46.761s (EVO)
31. Aaron Zanotti (Quattro Plant Spike BMW) 46.799s (EVO)
32. Scott Smart (Moto Rapido Ducati) 47.059s (EVO)
33. Tom Tunstall (Doodson Honda) 47.951s (EVO)
34. Matteo Mossa (777R Suzuki) 48.578s (EVO)