Josh Brookes will start the opening round of the 2012 MCE British Superbike Championship from pole position after holding his nerve in an eventful qualifying session at Brands Hatch.
On a circuit that was dry when qualifying began but would be wet by its conclusion, Brookes held off a number of unexpected names on a sodden circuit to claim pole position by three tenths of a second, while reigning champion Tommy Hill could only manage 29th after falling during Q1.
Indeed, while the Australian's presence at the top of the timesheets was not a substantial shock, he still heads up a top ten of surprise candidates after the arrival of rain towards the end of Q1 served to mix things up across the 33-strong field.
As such, Brookes will start ahead of Samsung Honda's Jon Kirkham and Shane Byrne on the Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki, while Tristan Palmer emerged an excellent fourth on his return to the series, the 29 year-old in turn handing GBmoto Honda a front row start for their first BSB race.
Behind him, former World Endurance winner Freddy Foray heads up an unusual second row, the Frenchman proving his experience in slippery conditions to place the Quattro Plant Kawasaki in fifth position, while Noriyuki Haga's reward for just avoiding elimination in Q1 and Q2 is a sixth place start for his much anticipated BSB debut with Swan Yamaha.
Similarly unexpected, Tommy Bridewell – who only secured his spot on the BSB grid a day before action got underway – will start in seventh position for Supersonic BMW's maiden outing in the British series, while wet weather specialist Michael Rutter will start eighth on the MSS Bathams Kawasaki.
Making the top ten but missing out on the front two rows, Stuart Easton and Luca Scassa will assume ninth and tenth on the grid, the pair sharing the third row with Ian Lowry and Gary Mason.
An eventful qualifying session from the outset, the threat of rain prompted many riders to hit the circuit early before the heavens inevitably opened.
However, this spelled disaster for Hill, who fell at Graham Hill Bend having managed just a single lap in Q1. Indeed, despite not coming to harm himself, marshals were unable to get the Yamaha restarted, forcing Hill to watch the remainder of the session from the sidelines as his name eventually tumbled down to 29th out of 33 runners.
Even so, he finds himself in good company at the back of the field, with both Michael Laverty and Alex Lowes both falling victim to the inclement weather conditions as they were prevented from improving their fairly modest best times. As such, Laverty starts in 21st, while Lowes and his WFR Honda team-mate James Westmoreland are down in 26th and 22nd respectively.
With a wet session declared for Q2, more high-profile casualties were ruled out of the reckoning, including Alastair Seeley in 13th and Graeme Gowland in 14th, while Chris Walker and Barry Burrell start a lowly 16th and 19th having shown well during free practice.CLICK HERE
to view the full qualifying times.