Milwaukee Yamaha’s Josh Brookes edged out BMW Builbase’s Ryuichi Kyonari to claim pole in the final minutes of qualifying at the British Superbike season opener at Brands Hatch. Tyco Suzuki’s John Hopkins joins the pair in the final position on the front row in third.
Today’s wet qualifying sessions – complete with standing water on the track - caught a lot of the top riders out. And that included pole-setter Brookes, who bounced back from three crashes, two of which were in the first of the three qualifying sessions. He was able to do so with the help of his team, who were able to get his bike back to order so that Brookes could advance to final session and put down the fastest lap.
“I am thrilled to be on the pole position and the team now have to work to get the bike back to how it was,” Brookes said. “But I feel this might go some way towards repaying them for their hard work during that session. I am really pleased with how things are going and I am looking forward to hopefully a dry race tomorrow."
Three-time British Superbike Champion Kiyonari was just shy of his first podium since the season opener at the Brands Hatch Indy circuit in 2011. Even so, the former Honda rider was happy with his front row result and his first ride in the wet with his new team.
"I felt good in the dry and wet because we haven't made changes between the settings and we have been building throughout the weekend,” said Kiyonari. “I think we will be ok for race distance but we need to make some more changes still to make sure we are faster tomorrow. So far it has been very good because today was our first ride in the wet but I am happy to be back on the front row again."
American John Hopkins was also happy with his front row qualifying effort in the difficult conditions in his debut with the Tyco Suzuki team after a year’s absence from racing.
“There was lot of standing water out there today. I hadn’t ridden in the rain for a long, long time,” Hopkins said. “The Tyco Suzuki was working perfectly in the conditions, just like it did at the end of last season when the team won three races. The boys did a great job today with set-up for me. My aim is to take it step by step. I just want to be in the top five and battling with those guys to start the season off, but overall I’m very happy so far.”
In fourth was the veteran Chris Walker on the Lloyds British GBmoto Racing Kawasaki. Kiyonari’s teammate James Westmoreland finished fifth. And trailing Westmoreland was a pair of Kawasaki’s - Richard Cooper and Ben Wilson.
Bathams BMW’s Michael Rutter and Patric Muff qualified eighth and tenth respectively. And PR Racing Kawasaki’s Keith Farmer starts tomorrow’s race in ninth.
Missing the top-10 was the three-time British Superbike Champion Shane Byrne, another one of the casualties in the difficult conditions. The Rapid Solicitor Kawasaki rider crashed in the closing stages of Q1 and while he was able to advance to Q2, Byrne was unable to move into the final session and had to settle for 13th.
In the support classes, this year’s Daytona 200 winner Danny Eslick qualified sixth in the British Superstock 1000 class. And in British Supersport, fellow American James Rispoli was able to advance from his 22nd qualifying position to 11th in the first of two races for the weekend.
2014 Brands Hatch British Superbike Qualifying Results
1. Josh Brookes (Yamaha)
2. Ryuichi Kiyonari (BMW)
3. John Hopkins (Suzuki)
4. Chris Walker (Kawasaki)
5. James Westmoreland (BMW)
6. Richard Cooper (Kawasaki)
7. Ben Wilson (Kawasaki)
8. Michael Rutter (BMW)
9. Keith Farmer (Kawasaki)
10. Patric Muff (BMW)