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Shane Byrne got his quest for a record-breaking fourth MCE British Superbike Championship title off to an effective start by claiming pole position for the opening round of the 2013 season at Brands Hatch.
The local rider came into the grid-deciding session as the rider to beat having topped FP2 and FP3 sessions, but was still made to work for the top spot by closest rival Alex Lowes, who set a strong early marker of 45.797secs during the final SP3 session.
However, Byrne would quickly respond with his own 45.717secs lap before the Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki man staved off any further threat by going quicker still with a 45.655secs lap.
Lowes, who qualified on pole position for each of the final three rounds of the 2012 season, was forced to settle for second fastest on his debut for Samsung Honda, comfortably ahead of Milwaukee Yamaha's James Ellison, who was the only other rider to dip below 46secs in the third and final Superpole session.
Rounding out the front row will be Jon Kirkham, who turned out to be one of the session's surprise packages as he cruised into the top ten shootout before going on to set the fourth fastest time aboard the Buildbase BMW. As well as being a big boost for the Buildbase team after a troublesome two years with S1000RR machinery, the result marks a first-ever qualified BSB front row for BMW since its debut in 2010.
Similarly impressive was reigning Superstock 1000 champion Keith Farmer, who will make his first full-time BSB start from fifth on the grid, ahead of title favourites Josh Brookes and Ryuichi Kiyonari. Even so, Farmer could have expected an even better start had he been able to replicate his SP2-topping time, which would have been quick enough to put him on the front row.
Joining Farmer, Brookes and Kiyonari on the second row will be another rookie in the form of PJ Jacobsen, the American performing well to edge out James Westmoreland on the second of the Buildbase BMWs and Dan Linfoot on the Lloyds British GBmoto Honda.
Outside the top ten, there was particular disappointment for Karl Harris, who could only manage 12th best having been in the top five during practice, while Tommy Bridewell also under-achieved on the Bathams Honda in 13th place.
Of the international contingent, Jakub Smrz, Matteo Baiocco and Josh Waters will start together in 14th, 15th and 16th respectively, while Robbin Harms failed to make the SP1 cut in 20th.