Jake Dixon’s title hopes have been given a boost after he topped all three parts of qualifying to take pole position for the opening round of the showdown at Oulton Park.
The RAF Regular and Reserves Kawasaki rider took full advantage of a mechanical issue for main title rival Leon Haslam, breaking the circuit record on his way to pole.
The 22-year-old will be joined on the front-row by Tommy Bridewell and Luke Mossey, both of whom made late charges up the order. Meanwhile, Haslam will start race one down in 24th after a disastrous opening session saw the title favourite suffer some form of mechanical problem on his Kawasaki.
Josh Brookes heads the second-row on his Yamaha, alongside Glenn Irwin and Richard Cooper. Bradley Ray will start seventh after slipping down the order in the closing seconds of the session. Tarran Mackenzie is next up in eighth, whilst Danny Buchan finished bottom of the pile in Q3 after a huge crash at Island Bend – a crash which brought the red flag out with only a few minutes remaining.
As Q1 began the riders entered a circuit which was mainly dry with some damp patches in places. There was an early issue for Haslam, with the championship leader running back down pit lane with his JG Speedfit Kawasaki machine. Team boss, Jack Valentine, told British Eurosport that Haslam’s bike had lost cylinder and that he would not be able to make it back out in time.
On the circuit, the opening part of qualifying was topped by Dixon, with a lap-time of 1:36.464. Cooper and Bridewell completed the top three in Q1. The riders who failed to make it through to Q2, alongside Haslam, were; Joe Francis, Fraser Rodgers, Tom Neave, Shaun Winfield and Aaron Zanotti.
The times began to drop in Q2 as the riders became more accustomed to the mixed track conditions. The middle part of qualifying was topped once again by Dixon, with a lap-time of 1:34.690. Brookes and Glenn Irwin joined him inside the top three.
Those unable to make it through to Q3 were; Andrew Irwin, Jason O’Halloran, showdown contender Peter Hickman, Michael Laverty, Gino Rea, Dan Linfoot, James Ellison, Dean Harrison and Mason Law.
After the opening laps of Q3, it was Dixon who sat at the top of the timing sheets with a 1:33.952 – a new lap record. Moments later the red flag was out following a huge accident for Buchan at Island Bend. Fortunately, the FS-3 Kawasaki rider could be seen walking away from the crash site.
The session was re-started with just under four minutes remaining on the clock. Brookes was the first rider back out onto the circuit, with the Australian’s previous lap being cut short due to the red flag. Brookes would slot into sixth with a 1:35.000.
With seconds remaining on the clock, Brookes would improve further and move up into second spot. He was soon demoted back down to fourth however, as Bridewell and Mossey shot up the standings into second and third places respectively. Ray would fall from second on the grid, down to seventh in the closing stages.
Nobody was able to get close to Dixon though, with the man who sits second in the championship taking a comfortable pole position.