The triple champion pushed out Josh Brookes by just 0.004s on his final lap to return to the top in Datatag Extreme Qualifying for the first time since 2010.
The Buildbase BMW rider saved the best for last to outgun Brookes aboard the Milwaukee Yamaha in a frantic session which saw the positions change at the top six times in the final eight minutes and end with the top ten covered by just 0.569s.
Kiyonari secured Buildbase BMW’s first pole start of the season, he said: “I am very happy and feel confident with the bike that I can push on. I did faster laps, then went back some places and then on the last lap I knew I had to push and just thought ‘go’. We will push hard tomorrow and hopefully we can win, or at least be on the podium. I will try one hundred percent again for the races.”
Brookes, currently third in the standings and the only rider to have beaten Byrne so far, thought that he had done enough to secure pole. He said: “I thought that will do us and I had done enough to get pole without taking any risks. Usually I like Kiyo, but I don’t right now!”
Byrne will start from third on the grid alongside Kiyonari and Brookes. He had a brief stint at the top and knows he has what it takes to fight back tomorrow. Byrne said: “I’ve always said that pole was not that important but being on the front row here is. We will work hard tonight to find that extra bit so we can fight for the wins again tomorrow.”
Byrne’s pace was enough to relegate his team-mate, Flying Scot Stuart Easton, who had also led the session momentarily, back into fourth place and a second row start alongside James Ellison on the leading Lloyds British GBmoto Kawasaki. James Westmoreland on the second Buildbase BMW completes row two.
Jakub Smrz on the Millsport Ducati, Chris Walker on the second Lloyds British GBmoto Kawasaki and Bathams BMW rider Michael Rutter are on the third row with a top ten featuring four different manufacturers.
Tommy Bridewell had set the seventh best time, but a three grid place penalty was imposed on the Milwaukee Yamaha rider after a black and orange flag infringement in free practice, relegated him to the fourth row.
Datatag Extreme Qualifying:
1: Ryuichi Kiyonari (Buildbase BMW) 48.112s
2: Josh Brookes (Milwaukee Yamaha) +0.004s
3: Shane Byrne (Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki) +0.118s
4: Stuart Easton (Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki) +0.060s
5: James Ellison (Lloyds British GBmoto Racing Kawasaki) +0.095s
6: James Westmoreland (Buildbase BMW) +0.185s