Tommy Hill powered in his fifth pole start of the campaign ahead of the tenth round of the MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship at Croft to take advantage of struggles by his two immediate rivals for the crown, Ryuichi Kiyonari and Josh Brookes.
Riding the Worx Crescent Suzuki, Hill, the joint leader in the title stakes with Kiyonari, had been fastest throughout free practice and he carried that form through to the grid deciding Swan Combi Roll for Pole, coming out on top with a best lap of the North Yorkshire circuit in 1:20.325secs.
“It was hard out there, but we are in good position and want the championship,” said Hill. “We’ve been consistent in qualifying across the season, and turning that into results. Now hopefully we can get the job done with two podiums here, though two wins would be nicer.
“Everyone is pushing hard, trying hard, and that showed with Kiyonari going down, but for me it is good to come out on top. Maybe we will make a few little tweaks to the bike before the races, but I want the race wins.”
Michael Laverty, going into the races in fifth place in the points among the six “title-fighters,” ran his Relentless Suzuki within 0.093secs of Hill with Michael Rutter, doing his hopes of taking the country’s premier crown no harm as he put his RidersMotorcycles.com Ducati into third place on the front row with a highly competitive lap in 1:20.499.
However, for the three other “title-fighters” it was a tough session. Kiyonari made it through to the final element of the grid decider, but tipped off his HM Plant Honda on the out lap at the start of that session, to be back in 10th place on the leaderboard, and with it a third row start.
Alastair Seeley, in sixth place among the elite six in the standings, starts from the fourth row aboard his Relentless Suzuki, with Brookes, who goes into these races a point down on the leading duo, starting alongside him after a struggle with machine set-up at the crucial time.
James Ellison was the fastest of the rest, running fourth overall with a lap in 1:20.945secs aboard his Swan Honda and showing the speed and style that had taken him to an opening round victory prior to the accident at Thruxton in which his title dreams were wrecked by a broken leg.
Dan Linfoot heads the second row on his Motorpoint Yamaha ahead of MSS Colchester Kawasaki rider Simon Andrews and Stuart Easton, who enjoyed his maiden BSB win in the corresponding round last year.
Loris Baz, the 17-year-old French rider, deputising for the injured Motorpoint Yamaha rider Andrew Pitt, ran eight fastest but crashed heavily at the chicane in the closing moments.
Hudson Kennaugh looks set to peg back vital points on Mirror.co.uk BSB-EVO class leader Steve Brogan – the former South African champion was comfortably the fastest aboard his Splitlath Aprilia from his teammate Chris Burns with Brogan, still sore from his tumble in free practice, sixth fastest in class and almost half a second down on Kennaugh.
In Supersport, top Australian was Billy McConnell in third, while Jason O’Halloran will line-up 10th and Glen Richards 15th.