Rutter had recorded the fastest time on his factory CBR1000RR in the morning’s first session – a position which he maintained until the closing stages of the second qualifying period. The 31-year-old Midlander lives within yards of the Leicestershire track and the local hero looked favourite to clinch his second consecutive pole position until Kiyo struck with only two minutes remaining.
The 22-year-old Japanese star has been a model of consistency around the 1.39-mile oval circuit over the past two days. However, his breathtaking lap of 50.593 seconds gave him his first pole position of the season and the fastest ever lap on two wheels around the reconfigured circuit, which returned to the British Superbike calendar last season.
The HM Plant Hondas will therefore line-up on the front row of the grid for tomorrow’s two 30-lap races in front of what is expected to be a record crowd at this spectator-friendly circuit. Kiyonari will hope to extend his unbeaten run of four wins from four starts in 2005, while Rutter will hope to move into second position in the championship overall and close the 31-point deficit on his team-mate.
Michael Rutter: “This is an important event for me and I know that qualifying on the front row is a must at my home circuit. A good start can make the difference between winning and losing because it is so tight for overtaking around here. It goes without saying that my HM Plant Honda Racing team-mate is the man to beat. We’ve been running close in qualifying, but it’s all about how we perform over 30 laps tomorrow. I’m confident that we’ll both be on the podium – it remains to be seen in which order!”
Ryuichi Kiyonari: “This is a unique circuit in the British Superbike Championship, but I have happy memories of my debut here last season. There are some very fast riders at Mallory Park, so I am expecting two hard races tomorrow. I have an excellent race set-up for the HM Plant Honda Racing CBR1000RR Fireblade thanks to the support of the team. I will work hard to maintain my advantage in the series overall.”
Qualifying: 1. R. Kiyonari (HM Plant Honda Racing) 50.593; 2. M. Rutter (HM Plant Honda Racing) 50.816; 3. G. Richards (Kawasaki) 50.983; 4. D. Thomas (Kawasaki) 51.244; 5. K. Harris (Honda-Racing.co.uk) 51.258; 6. L. Haslam (Ducati) 51.295; 7. S. Smart (Suzuki) 51.345; 8. G. Lavilla (Ducati) 51.439; 9. J. Reynolds (Suzuki) 51.497; 10. J. Buckingham (Suzuki) 51.537