Leon Haslam snatched pole position on his return to BSB after dominating Saturday qualifying on the JG Speedfit Kawasaki ZX-10R. The 32-year-old took his last BSB pole at Knockhill in 2008 before departing the UK series to compete in the World Superbike championship.
“That was probably the most nerve-wracking day I have had in my whole career.” an obviously relieved Haslam smiled. “It is a new bike and I rode it for the first time in the wet this morning.”
Honda’s Jason O’Halloran, returning to action for the first time since breaking his leg and wrist at Thruxton last August, was second fastest. Christian Iddon on the Tyco BMW completed the front row of Sunday’s opening race.
Difficult conditions greeted the 30 riders as they took to the track for the three qualifying sessions just after 4pm on Saturday. Heavy showers and a freezing wind left the Northamptonshire track damp and cold for the opening qualifying stint.
The first casualty was James Ellison who was unhurt after sliding off his JG Speedfit Kawasaki at Vale. Shane Byrne topped the leaderboard of the first session on the Be Wiser Ducati but it was his young teammate, Glenn Irwin, who raised eyebrows by posting the fourth fastest time.
Haslam was only eighth fastest in that session but he finished the second stint in second behind Luke Mossey who has made a confident start to the new season on the Quattro Plant Kawasaki.
In light of the conditions, the organisers scrapped plans to run the new format single lap Superpole, opting instead for a third 12 minute session involving the fastest nine riders whittled down from the two opening qualifying stints.
A disappointed Dan Linfoot was unable to start the final run after his Honda overheated, leaving his Australian teammate to split Haslam and Iddon in the front row battle for Sunday’s races.
“That was the first qualifying session for me for quite a while and I was a little bit stressed, especially with the conditions.” O’Halloran admitted. “To come back and feel comfortable and have the speed that I’ve got so early in the season has surprised me a little bit and maybe the team too.”
“I nearly crashed on the last lap.” Christian Iddon laughed after qualifying third for Sunday’s races. “Last year I was able to run a pace but not consistently but now I am just happy to be on a bike that I can do the same lap over and over again.” the 31 year old explained.
“I am just chilled out and looking forward to tomorrow.”
Shakey Byrne (Be Wiser Ducati) , Luke Mossey (Quattro Plant Kawasaki) and Tyco BMW’s Michael Laverty will make up the second row with John Hopkins (ePayMe Yamaha), James Rispoli (Anvil Hire TAG Yamaha) and Dan Linfoot (Honda) behind them.