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Sep 24, 2011

Updated: Michael Laverty Snags British Superbike Pole Position At Silverstone

Michael Laverty (7).


Qualifying - top six:
1.Michael Laverty (Swan Yamaha) 2m 05.056s
2.John Hopkins (Samsung Crescent Racing Suzuki) +0.077s
3.Josh Brookes (Relentless Suzuki by TAS) +0.455s
4.Michael Rutter (Rapid Solicitors-Bathams Ducati) +0.475s
5.Tommy Hill (Swan Yamaha) +0.588s
6.Jon Kirkham (Samsung Crescent Racing Suzuki) +1.168s

Championship standings ahead of the penultimate round:
1 John Hopkins (Samsung Crescent Racing Suzuki) 568
2 Tommy Hill (Swan Yamaha) 565
3 Shane Byrne (HM Plant Honda) 543
4 Michael Laverty (Swan Yamaha) 532
5 Josh Brookes (Relentless Suzuki by TAS) 530
6 Ryuichi Kiyonari (HM Plant Honda) 518


Michael Laverty powered to his second pole start of the season ahead of the penultimate Showdown round of the MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship at Silverstone in which the Swan Yamaha rider is determined to put his bid for the crown firmly back on course.

It was a close run thing but Laverty, who had run fastest in the first two elements of the race one grid decider, maintained that form through to the end with a lap at 105.57mph that was just enough to eclipse the best lap of series leading John Hopkins by 0.077secs.

Laverty goes into these races 36 points down on Hopkins but is full of fight and with five races remaining is convinced that he can claw back the points lost after a first corner, first lap crash with Shane Byrne in the previous round.

"That incident at Donington Park was frustrating and put me on the back foot but now with pole we'll be getting stuck in and pushing for wins and points. We will not be giving up on the title till the very end," said Laverty. "The bike is working well, the little changes we made, fine tuning it a little, made it comfortable and it is great to be on pole again."

Hopkins, who last week underwent further surgery on the finger on his right hand that he broke in several places in mid August, rode through "extreme pain" but reckons that will not hinder him in the races as he aims to become the first American to win the British title.

The Samsung Crescent Suzuki rider said: "I will be up there and can rise to the challenge. Towards the end of qualifying the adrenalin rush jolted in and it will in the races. I thought I had done enough to get pole but then Michael put in a very good lap."

Aussie Josh Brookes, another of the six Title Fighters in the Showdown phase of the series, ran his Relentless Suzuki third fastest as Michael Rutter riding the Rapid Solicitors Bathams Ducati completed the front row of the grid despite still suffering from broken ribs sustained two rounds ago.

Tommy Hill who starts these races trailing Hopkins by only three points starts his Swan Yamaha from the second row of the grid in fifth, with Jon Kirkham on the second Samsung Crescent Suzuki alongside him. Martin Jessopp starts sixth despite a tumble from his Rapid Solicitors Bathams Ducati at Maggotts in the closing minutes and Tyco Honda's Peter Hickman completes the second row.

Graeme Gowland, ninth fastest overall, was the best of the BSB-EVO class riders on his WFR Honda, outpacing the full specification HM Plant Hondas in the hands of former two times title winner Shane Byrne and the reigning champion Ryuichi Kiyonari who start from the fourth row of the grid after a difficult qualifying session beset with vibration problems.

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More, from a press release issued by Swan Yamaha:


The Swan Yamaha team secured their sixth pole position of the MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship season at Silverstone today as Michael Laverty stormed to the fastest time in qualifying.

Laverty had set the pace in the final free practice session and he carried the momentum through to qualifying where he topped all three qualifying sessions before taking pole position with a time of 2m:05.056s. Tommy Hill meanwhile fought hard during qualifying but he was nudged back into fifth in the closing staages of the final session to start on the second row for tomorrow's opening race.

Laverty said: "It feels great to be starting from pole position for tomorrow's opening race at Silverstone. We have been feeling good since free practice and we have made some fine tuning today and the times have been coming comfortably. I always label myself as someone that isn't good at qualifying but I am changing that opinion now I have had my second pole position! I knew we would be on the back foot in the early stages of the weekend compared to John Hopkins as he had been here before, but I feel I have got one back on him now he took pole from my brother Eugene here at WSB and now I have denied him the pole position here today! Hopefully I can get a clean start tomorrow and have no collisions like we had at Donington Park so I can try and close the gap."

Hill said: "I obviously wanted to be starting from the front row, but every time we have been out in practice on used tyres we have been quickest. We are not a million miles away and I know we can get stuck in tomorrow. To be honest there were a few riders that sprung some surprises in that qualifying session; some of the Title Fighters are starting behind us and then some riders that are behind us in the championship standings are ahead. Tomorrow the races will be down to consistency and there are a few riders that want to upset the applecart for sure, but we need to do the best we can on the Swan Yamaha to set us up for Brands Hatch and the finale."

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More, from a press release issued by Team Suzuki News Service:

John Hopkins raced to the second-fastest time in today's British Superbike Championship qualifying at Silverstone in Northamptonshire, placing him on the front row for tomorrow's penultimate round as his Samsung Crescent Racing Suzuki team-mate Jon Kirkham qualified sixth fastest and will start from the second row.

Hopkins, who holds the lead in the Championship on his GSX-R100 Suzuki, rode a conservative practice and qualifying as a damage-limitation on his injured hand - incurred at the Brno MotoGP - saving his strength for tomorrow's races. Despite this, Hopkins set the fastest time in the two practice sessions and only dipped-out on setting Pole Position by the slightest of margin of 0.077-seconds.

Kirkham continued to enjoy his return to form, and after another productive practice, he cut his personal-best lap times by over a second to post sixth-fastest time.

John Hopkins:

"Everything is going very well considering I've two plates and six screws wedged into my finger. It's very sore, so I've kept my track time to a minimum, but I'm confident it'll be fine for the races - as at Donington Park, the adrenaline will kick in and take care of those.

"I'm lucky we had such a good setting to work from, as, after the WSB races earlier this year, we've been able to work from there and I know we have a good race-setting to go with. Tomorrow it'll be a case of getting a clean start and staying at the front. Bring home the points."

Jon Kirkham:

"I'm really pleased with how practice and qualifying have gone. We've got a much-better set-up for me this time around. I could probably have gone a bit quicker again, but I had a scare in the final qualifying when I had two big slides. The track was cooling at that time and that may have contributed to the slides, but I definitely feel there's more to come and I'll be pushing for top-five finishes again tomorrow."

Jack Valentine - Team Manager:

"I'm very happy with progress. Hopper is being very careful about his hand and yet he's still been able to post fastest times! He's already shown what he can do around here, so we're in known territory: It's just a matter of staying focused, not taking anything for granted and being ready when the attacks come. But most certainly, Hopper is in the best possible position going into tomorrow's racing.

"JK's put in yet another very impressive weekend. Last time here he wasn't too happy and although he scored World Championship points, he felt he could go better. Well, he's going much better this time around, he's over a second faster; and far more confident in his bike and his abilities. I think he's looking very settled and he should be good for top-five tomorrow. All in all, we're in good shape."

More, from a press release issued by Team Szuuki News Service:

Alastair Seeley narrowed the gap in the British Supersport Championship to just 11 points today at Silverstone with his eighth victory of the year on the Relentless Suzuki by TAS GSX-R600 as team-mate Josh Brookes qualified his GSX-R1000 Suzuki on the front row for tomorrow's opening Superbike encounter.

Seeley was involved in another great battle with series leader Ben Wilson during the nine-lap encounter. The duo swapped positions at the head of the field on more than 10 occasions, but all the drama was banked for the final lap when Wilson crashed out - his first DNF of the season. Seeley went on to take the victory on the GSX-R600, reducing the gap in the Championship standings with four races remaining.

Alastair Seeley:

"As everyone expected it was the usual ding-dong battle between Ben and me. When he went down I just made sure I didn't get too excited and crash myself. I could hear a Triumph behind me after that so I was just defending my lines and made sure of the win. During the race, we swapped positions a lot, but every time he came past I was able to hit straight back. The only thing was I couldn't relax and ride my own lines as he was diving in everywhere. It's made it interesting for tomorrow because we are P5 and P8 on the grid, but I'm confident of getting through and making a race of it. One thing's for sure, 11 points sounds a bit more promising than over 50, which is where we were coming into Donington, but we have to complete the job tomorrow and set-up an interesting final three races at Brands Hatch."

Josh Brookes:

"Yeah, that was quite good today although it took us a bit more time to get up to speed than the rest of the guys. We did it quite late in qualifying, so I'll just suck-it-and-see tomorrow where we are. We have no real knowledge of what tyre-wear is going to be like and if I have one concern in any area, that's where it will be."

Philip Neill - Team Manager:

"It's been another dominant weekend so far from Alastair and he wasn't far-off the World Supersport times, which is very impressive, especially as he is on a new bike and it's his first season in Supersport. He showed us again today what a great racing brain he has and responded immediately to anything Ben threw at him. Ben did look a bit eager and on the ragged-edge today, but as I said before - the pressure has been off Alastair from quite a few rounds ago. This Championship has always been Ben's to lose.

"It was also really pleasing to see Josh and the boys find the set-up we needed in BSB qualifying. They worked hard in every session and we took a gamble that you would only take at this time of the season and it worked. It was a bit of a 'Eureka Moment,' so the pleasure we got from seeing his lap times tumble was really satisfying for everyone in the team. We had already mastered the set-up for the tight twisty circuits, so hopefully we have found a set-up and the correct ingredients for these fast flowing ones. Tomorrow we will be looking to push for race wins and I really do believe Josh is in the hunt. Tyre preservation will play a key part but no one will have perfect grip late in the race as Silverstone is quite an abrasive circuit."