Former double British Superbike champion Ryuichi Kiyonari signalled his return to the domestic series in style by claiming pole position for the opening round of the season at Brands Hatch.

The Japanese rider, champion in 2006 and 2007, was in superb form throughout as he and Worx Crescent Suzuki's Tommy Hill battled it out for the top spot in all three sessions.

Although it was Hill who entered the top ten shootout with the quickest lap time of the weekend thus far, Kiyonari, a race winner around Brands Hatch at World Superbike level, would undercut him with an effort of 45.565secs, just over a tenth faster than the local rider.

While Kiyonari and Hill, who have paced several test sessions over the winter, were tipped for a front row start, Alastair Seeley and Dan Linfoot certainly turned the formbook around in third and fourth.

Kicking off their rookie BSB seasons in style, Relentless Suzuki's Seeley and Motorpoint Yamaha's Linfoot were just two and three tenths slower than Kiyonari to earn themselves pride of place at the head of the race one grid.

Kiyonari's team-mate Josh Brookes will start fifth after sneaking ahead of Honda counterpart Tommy Bridewell in the final minutes, the youngster nonetheless securing his first top ten BSB start on his debut for Quay Garage.

Michael Laverty and Yukio Kagayama join them on row two, while row three will be headed by Swan Honda pairing Stuart Easton and James Ellison, the former doing a fine job as he continues to ride around his knee injury, while the latter failed to set a time in the shootout after hitting technical issues.

Just missing the top ten cut, Ducati pair Michael Rutter and Martin Jessopp will start 11th and 12th respectively, ahead of John Laverty, who emerged as the leading Kawasaki rider in 13th.

Meanwhile, Chris Walker was a solid 15th on his debut aboard the CW Suzuki, while Steve Brogan became the first rider to secure 'Evo' pole position on the Jentin BMW, three positions up on second place man Craig Fitzpatrick.

With tricky weather conditions during practice making predictions difficult ahead of the Roll for Pole shootout, 34 riders hit the circuit for the opening 20 minute to decide grid positions from 21st downwards.

While it was the majority of the Evo runners who were, as expected, eliminated one name did stand out as having been forced out of contention - Neil Hodgson.

A dismal start to his high-profile BSB comeback, the former world champion could go no higher than 22nd position, Hodgson hoping the amended rules - which will see fastest race one lap times determine the race two grid - work in his favour.