2011 British Superbike
Tommy Hill kept his cool in difficult damp conditions at Knockhill to claim pole start for the first of the two races of the fifth round of the MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship.
The Swan Yamaha rider headed off the threat of former MotoGP rider John Hopkins in a dramatic finale to qualifying in which the series leading Shane Byrne and Josh Brookes both slid off without injury.
Hill, virtually clear of the shoulder injury that put him on the back-foot in the title stakes, is determined to use this Scottish pole to good effect to put his title challenge firmly back on track and he commented: “we’ve had a good start, but now we need to finish the weekend off, getting out and getting stuck in to these races.”
His pole setting lap came in 52.867secs and Hill reflected: “I felt comfortable although it was a bit of a gamble and it was a case of staying composed and doing the job though there were a few worrying moments when several riders were looking at slick tyres. Now we need to focus on wins and points.”
Hill and Hopkins will be looking to capitalise on Byrne’s demise at the Chicane, the former two times British champion sliding off his HM Plant Honda without injury, but facing an uphill struggle in the races as he starts from the third row of the grid.
Hopkins is currently second in the points, 15 down on Byrne, and is keen to enjoy the cuedos of leading the standings even though the main focus for all of the riders is to secure positions in the top six ahead of the end of season Showdown for the title.
Hopkins who closed his Samsung Crescent Suzuki within 0.178secs praised the work of his team: “Qualifying was good and in these conditions it is about how much you risk pushing that bit too hard and risk crashing. You are riding on the edge but when you get it right, it is fun. Wet or dry, they have the bike awesome for me – it would have been nice to have taken pole but it is the races that matter. We get the points then.”
Gary Mason put his MSS Colchester Kawasaki onto the front row ahead of Michael Rutter on the Rapid Solicitors Bathams Ducati. Lining up behind them was Jon Kirkham, riding the second Samsung Crescent Suzuki, and Josh Brookes who remained sixth fastest despite sliding off his Relentless Suzuki at Butchers.
Glen Richards, the fastest of the Mirror.co.uk BSB-EVO class riders, set the seventh best time ahead of Motorpoint Yamaha’s James Westmoreland. Byrne headed the third row from Loris Baz who had tumbled at the chicane in the second session. Michael Laverty and the three times British champion Ryuichi Kiyonari were alongside.
Simon Andrews and Graeme Gowland who were second and third fastest in the BSB-EVO class start from the fourth row while Alex Lowes whose spectacular highside stopped the second part of the qualifying session will start his MSS Colchester Kawasaki from the fifth row in company with series debutant Jake Zemke aboard the WFR Honda.
2011 Knockhill British Superbike: Qualifying Results
1.Tommy Hill (Swan Yamaha) 52.867s
2.John Hopkins (Samsung Crescent Racing Suzuki) +0.178s
3.Gary Mason (MSS Colchester Kawasaki) +0.725s
4.Michael Rutter (Rapid Solicitors-Bathams Ducati) +0.899s
5.Jon Kirkham (Samsung Crescent Racing Suzuki) +0.969s
6.Josh Brookes (Relentless Suzuki by Relentless Suzuki by TAS) +0.996s