Shane Byrne edged out reigning MCE British Superbike champion Tommy Hill to secure his and the Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki team's first pole position of the season at Brands Hatch on Saturday.
Swan Yamaha's Hill, who carries the confidence from his winning hat-trick in the previous Oulton round, had set the pace and was initially under pressure from Samsung Honda's Michael Laverty.
But former double champion Byrne stole the show on the circuit where he made his racing debut, as he snatched the top spot on the leaderboard by 0.062s.
“It has been a long time coming and now we have to convert it into race wins,” said Byrne, who had signed off last season with a winning double at the circuit.
“We are having to ride really hard and cannot rest on anything. We need to keep working to maintain our race pace and will be trying one or two ideas in the morning warm-up session.”
Hill was denied a fifth pole start by just 0.062secs and is gearing up for the races tomorrow at the track where he lifted the title so sensationally last October.
Hill said: “We have started the weekend well but it is when the red mist comes down in the other garages you need to be ready and we need to keep making sure we move forwards too.
"I was a bit frustrated and I was overriding the bike; we have had some fuelling issues and again it felt different today, but we made some mapping changes to try and pip Shakey for the pole position at the end of the session but fair play he did a good job.”
Laverty and his team had wrestled with changing settings across the day and found the best for the qualifying session. Laverty said: “We've had a few issues and made changes but there is still work to be done and we'll be looking into that before the races.”
Aussie Josh Brookes completes the front row for Tyco Suzuki despite a crash in the earlier free practice session, easing former World Superbike star Noriyuki Haga back into fifth place and with it a second row start alongside Pr1mo Bournemouth Kawasaki's Chris Walker and the WFR Honda duo of James Westmoreland and Graeme Gowland.
Sunday's seventh round will start with Hill holding a 28-point lead over Josh Brookes, with Byrne a further point behind. Three rounds remain in which to claim a top-six place and gather podium credits before The Showdown.