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Kirkham on second row for BSB opener

The Brands Hatch Indy circuit once again proved to be a pressure cooker experience for the British Superbike paddock today, as the job of qualifying for race one of the 2011 championship got underway. Samsung Crescent Racing's riders found mixed fortunes with Jon Kirkham qualifying on the second row while team-mate John Hopkins will start from the third.

For superbike rookie Jon Kirkham that meant joy as he backed up strong free practice rides with a seventh-fastest time in the final qualifying session today. But for team-mate and former MotoGP star John Hopkins there was despair when he missed the cut-off for the final of the three qualifying sessions and found he will have to start tomorrow in P11, on the third row.

Jon Kirkham: "I'm very pleased with that, qualifying's not gone too bad at all. I was hoping for a front row and I'd taken the strategy of using two out laps then pushing for a fast one – af ter which we could expect the tyre to be done. And that strategy went well right up to Clearways on the fast lap when it started spinning up on the rear – and that's all it takes around here to miss out on the time you need. One small difference.

"That aside I have to be very happy; we've stuck with our strategy from pre-season – 'steady away', that's almost our moto now. So for tomorrow I want to come away with two solid results. It's a long season so there's no need for big risks, I'll look to make a clean start and stay out of trouble."

John Hopkins: "Today was good and bad. We did a good morning's work setting  consistently fast lap times – in the 45s – on used tyres, so we know we can run a good race pace.

"In qualifying, Q1 went well and I got a good time but in that second session I just started rushing the corners too much, I made a lot of mistakes and didn't set th e lap times I should have. I should have relaxed a bit and worked harder on the getting out of the turns.

"So I've given myself more work for tomorrow than I would like to have, but I'm a good starter so I'll hopefully get away well and push hard for that busy first lap, make up as many places as I can, not let anyone get away!"

Jack Valentine, team manager: "Mixed fortunes today for us. Obviously I'm very, very pleased for JK. We've set realistic goals for him all along and he's achieved all of these and more. If he can turn his qualifying into two top-six finishes tomorrow then we'll be very happy.

"For Hopper it's been a tough afternoon, he's certainly getting to experience just how competitive BSB can be. We know he has top-five speed, though, so he'll be looking to make a strong start tomorrow and hopefully will get onto the tail of the lead group and see where he can go from there.

" ;The team is working great, we've been working with a great set-up on the bikes and have shown we've the speed to ride at the front. We're still very much looking forward to the racing tomorrow."

MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship,
Round One, Brands Hatch
Qualifying result:

1. Shane Byrne (HM Plant Honda) 45.112s
2. Ryuichi Kiyonari (HM Plant Honda) +0.080s
3. Michael Laverty (Swan Yamaha) +0.168s
4. Tommy Hill (Swan Yamaha) +0.212s
5. Loris Baz (Motorpoint Yamaha) +0.408s
6. Michael Rutter (Rapid Solicitors-Bathams Ducati) +0.494s
7. Jon Kirkham (Samsung Crescent Racing) +0.515s
8. Tommy Bridewell (Tyco Honda) +0.703s
9. James Westmoreland (Motorpoint Yamaha) +0.780S
10. Stuart Easton (MSS Colchester Kawasaki) +0.947s
11. John Hopkins (Samsung Crescent Racing) (45.730s)