With only 13 points between the Spanish and Japanese stars, there is still everything to play for in tomorrow’s two 20-lap races. However, Kiyonari will be forced to start from the third row of the grid after qualifying in tenth position, alongside his HM Plant Honda Racing team-mate Michael Rutter.
Kiyonari was in a provisional 11th place with a time of 1:27.485 after this morning’s first qualifying period. The 23-year-old worked hard with his crew on the set-up of the HRC-prepared CBR1000RR Fireblade between sessions. He was rewarded with an improved position and time of 1:26.922 – one second down on pole position James Haydon.
Rutter maintained station in ninth place despite also improving his time in the afternoon qualifying session. The 32-year-old Midlander powered the HM Plant Honda around the Kent circuit 0.648 seconds faster than he had done in the first session to remain close to his team-mate on row three.
HM Plant Honda Racing has already been a dominant force during qualifying for the world’s leading domestic Superbike championship. Three pole positions apiece for Kiyonari and Rutter – and 11 other front row starts – have helped to propel the factory Fireblades into second and third positions respectively in the overall points table.
Kiyonari has also collected the Audi Quattro Performance Award for his superior positions and results in all aspects of the 13-round championship. As the rider with the highest number of points for the best times in qualifying, pole positions, race wins and fastest laps, the HM Plant Honda Racing star has already secured a decisive advantage to win an Audi TT Quattro worth £40,000.
Michael Rutter: “With any chance of the championship now gone, I am hoping to finish my second season with HM Plant Honda Racing on a positive note. The CBR1000RR Fireblade is going well and we have been working hard with Michelin to find the best set-up. We’ve gone well here in the past, so hopefully we’ll be able to carry that form into tomorrow’s two Superbike races.”
Ryuichi Kiyonari: “This is a difficult circuit for me. Although I won both races over the Indy track at the start of the season, I have not got the same experience over the Grand Prix layout. However, thanks to the hard work of HM Plant Honda Racing, we are heading in the right direction. The CBR1000RR feels good in some sections, but my times don’t reflect this.”
Qualifying: 1. J. Haydon (Suzuki) 1:25.920; 2. L. Haslam (Ducati) 1:26.038; 3. K. Harris (Honda-Racing.co.uk) 1:26.270; 4. G. Lavilla (Ducati) 1:26.331; 5. D. Thomas (Kawasaki) 1:26.418; 6. G. Richards (Kawasaki) 1:26.480; 7. G. Mason (Honda) 1:26.519; 8. T. Hill (Yamaha) 1:26.674; 9. M. Rutter (HM Plant Honda Racing) 1:26.700; 10. R. Kiyonari (HM Plant Honda Racing) 1:26.922