SHANE BYRNE scorched to the pole start for the Easter Monday opening round of the MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship by setting the fastest ever lap around the Brands Hatch Indy circuit.
The former two times winner of the British crown, back after two years on the World stage, finally overcame the determined challenges of his HM Plant Honda team-mate reigning champion Ryuichi Kiyonari with an amazing lap of the 1.2079 mile Kent circuit in 45.112secs, an average speed on 96.39mph.
The record had been shattered by each of them in the second element of the Superpole grid-decider but in the early minutes of the final stage, Kiyonari threw down the gauntlet with a lap in 45.192secs. That prompted a rapid, decisive response from Byrne and on his sixth lap of the session he clocked a time of 45.171secs, but then bettered that.
Byrne was delighted: “The record is brilliant, but I have to admit it was not the most important thing on the agenda when I went out there. Pole is good and after I saw the time that Kiyo had set I pushed on really hard. I’ve done it and it is a great starter.”
The focus now for Byrne is on the races. “They are different matter, and they will be hard. The times are very close and I have a great respect for Kiyo – you don’t win the British title three times and not be a great rider,” said Byrne who has worked hard across all of the practice and qualifying sessions to ensure that his bike is well set-up for the races.
Kiyonari is equally concerned that he has everything in place for the two 30 lap races on a circuit where he took a winning double in 2005, easing him towards the first of his three British titles. “I am very happy with my race pace and maybe we can find more in the warm-up. I can go faster and like Shakey I want to win the races,” said the Japanese rider.
They will need to be at their best as the Swan Yamaha duo of Michael Laverty and Tommy Hill both bettered the lap record to secure front row starts. The French teenager Loris Baz, who had set the fastest lap in the third free practice session, maintained that pace to secure a second row start for his Motorpoint Yamaha.
Michael Rutter on the Rapid Solicitors-Bathams Ducati, Jon Kirkham riding the Samsung Crescent Suzuki and Tyco Honda’s Tommy Bridewell qualified on the second row, ahead of James Westmoreland on the second Motorpoint Yamaha, MSS Colchester Kawasaki’s Stuart Easton, series newcomer John Hopkins on the Samsung Crescent Suzuki and Sorrymate.com Honda’s Dan Linfoot.
Graeme Gowland will start from 17th place on the grid and was the fastest of the Mirror.co.uk BSB-EVO class riders, just ahead of his WFR Honda team-mates Glen Richards and Alex Lowes with James Hiller riding the Bournemouth Kawasaki fourth fastest.