Kiyonari bags BSB pole at Knockhill 28 | 06 | 2014

    JAPAN'S RYUICHI KIYONARI played party-pooper at Knockhill as he grabbed pole position for tomorrow's first race of the British Superbike double-header at the Fife track.

    Most people had expected 37-year-old Londoner Shane 'Shakey' Byrne — the three-time BSB champ who leads this year's title race by 45 points — to merely turn up on his Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki and bag pole.

    Kiyonari though had other thoughts. With three BSB titles already tucked into his overalls, he moved this year to BMW, and though the pace has been there, he's struggled to get results in the opening part of the season.

    Trailing Byrne by 108 points in the championship, and currently lying a distant eighth, the 31-year-old showed he's finally getting to grips with his new bike.

    In a thrilling top 10 shoot-out, which saw times tumble despite the threat of rain throughout he session, Kiyonari (pictured) left it late.

    With the chequered flag already waving to end the session, and rain beginning to fall, he stormed up the start-finish straight — the rear wheel of his BMW squiggling and jiggling as he sent a surge of power to it as he accelerated out of the newly realigned Hairpin — to stop the clock on 48.112secs.

    Related: 'Shakey' plans to conquer Knockhill

    It was Kiyonari's first BSB pole position since Mallory Park in 2010, and the first for his new BMW team. It also eased the Yamaha of Aussie Josh Brookes off pole by just four one-thousandths of a second.

    "I'm very happy," the popular Japanese rider said. "Last year, and the beginning of this year, I've struggled in qualifying, that's why I'm very happy with this. But the big thing is tomorrow's two races.

    "I'm getting more confident and comfortable on the BMW, and I feel I can push every lap. Hopefully tomorrow I'll get a great result."

    Brookes, who watched Kiyonari's late surge from the ultimately frustrating comfort of his garage, was magnanimous afterwards.

    "The conditions were getting a bit slippery, and I just concentrated on keeping the bike straight, and genuinely thought my time was quick enough to get pole. I normally really like Kiyo, but just not right now," he laughed.

    Byrne could only manage third, one place ahead of his Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki team-mate, Hawick's Stuart Easton.

    "Yeh, I'd definitely have liked to have been on the front row in front of my home support," the 30-year-old Scot, who won last year's British Supersport Championship before graduating to BSB this year, admitted,

    "But the grid this year is so competitive that even to be in the top 10 shoot-out is an achievement! Hopefully we'll have a good couple of races tomorrow, and ideally I'd love to get on the podium."

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    Jim McGill

    Photograph copyright Double Red

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