Shane Byrne and Josh Brookes took a victory apiece at Assen to move clear of Tommy Hill at the top of the British Superbike Championship standings. The defending champion made the worst possible start to the showdown, crashing as he came onto the grid before the opening race had even started, and immediately surrendered the initiative to his two big rivals.
Hill was only able to complete a handful of laps in race one, one of which was quick enough to pole in race two, but had that time was disallowed because the team had fitted tyre warmers while repairing his bike, dropping him to sixth on the race two grid. It put the seal on a terrible first race for Hill and he later explained the circumstances of his bizarre accident.
“I was coming through the back of the grid in race one and it was pretty busy and a mechanic from another team didn’t realise I was there and ran into me and it jammed the brake lever on. I went over the bars there was nothing that I could do about it. The bike went down, but the team did a great job to do a quick fix and get me out there.”
Without him, Shane Byrne took full advantage to claim victory on his first race back from injury, edging away from Michael Laverty, Josh Brookes and pole starter Alex Lowes in the second half of the race. Laverty’s decision to use the softer tyre backfired as he tumbled to seventh with Brookes and Lowes disputing the two remaining podium spots. The Australian would eventually sneak it by 0.150s after diving past at Stekkenwal three laps from home. Tommy Bridewell’s consistent season continued with sixth behind Luca Scassa and Noriyuki Haga but the result wasn’t ideal for his title hopes.
Race two descended into a straight fight between Byrne and Brookes which started to swing the way of the Kawasaki on the last lap. Byrne outbraked the Suzuki into turn one and maintained his lead right until the final chicane when the Australian sent an aggressive move up the inside. Byrne appeared to be well placed to win the drag race to the finish line but the leaders came across backmarker Aaron Zanotti and Byrne was boxed in, handing victory to Brookes.
The fight for third was equally competitive with Tommy Hill desperate to make up for his earlier disappointment. Unfortunately for Swan Yamaha, their team leader was denied by Alex Lowes who also stole a spot at the final chicane, demoting Hill to fourth. Meanwhile, Michael Laverty suffered another blow to his title hopes after trailing home in seventh behind Bridewell and Haga.
Brookes’ victory gives him a two point lead over Byrne heading into the penultimate weekend at Silverstone and the Tyco Suzuki rider was particularly happy with the manner of the win.
“We suffered a bit with chatter here this weekend and tyre wear but we just managed it and found a set up where we could do the lap times that were good enough to win the second race. We did make a few small changes for race two which gave me better performance on the GSX-R1000, and I was able to run the race to Shakey. I was always going to try and make the pass, just didn’t expect it to come down to the final chicane, but it was a good weekend and thanks to the whole team for the effort.”
Byrne was visibly livid after being thwarted by Zanotti on the run to the line but was philosophical afterwards, admitting the points return from Assen was above expectations.
“If anyone had offered me a first and second a week ago I’d have laughed at them, but after winning race one I was disappointed not to win race two. My shoulder was sore but didn’t cause me too many problems in race one and I was lining up to pass Josh in the final corner in race two but was unfortunately baulked by a backmarker, but that’s racing. I’m certainly fired up for Silverstone and happy enough to be just two points off the championship lead.”
The pressure will be on Hill at Silverstone with last year’s showdown winner trailing by 22 points. Back-to-back podiums have kept Alex Lowes in the hunt, 36 points back, while Michael Laverty is a further two points in arrears.