Shane Byrne is potentially one race away from clinching his third British Superbike title after winning race one at Brands Hatch. Rain halted proceedings three laps early but Byrne had the race under control throughout and heads into Sunday’s opening race with an eighteen point advantage over Josh Brookes.
After dominating qualifying earlier today, Alex Lowes started from pole position but Byrne beat him into Paddock Hill bend, leaving the WFR Honda rider to fend off Michael Laverty. More good news for the Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki team came from Stuart Easton who leapt up to fourth, jumping Josh Brookes and Tommy Hill.
The front three eased away from the queue formed behind Easton with Byrne’s lead hovering at around one second but Michael Laverty would throw away any chance of catching him with a costly error on lap eleven. Chasing Lowes for second, the Ulsterman ran wide at Surtees and dropped to twelfth, not only losing any hope of victory in the race, but in the championship as well.
Easton meanwhile was now defending a podium position but Tommy Hill, knowing that his championship chances were under serious threat, dived past him into Paddock Hill on lap thirteen. Brookes had a similar mind-set and demoted Easton to fifth at Graham Hill but the top two were long gone, leaving the Australian to focus on salvaging a podium.
Four laps from the scheduled finish, the ominous black clouds started to open with the riders visibly nervous at the change in conditions. Coming on to the home straight to complete lap fifteen, Byrne had clearly decided enough was enough and gestured to race direction. His concerns had been noted and the race was stopped seconds later but little did he know, his nearest rival had just tumbled at Clearways. Unfortunately for Alex Lowes, his fall came seconds before the race was halted and we wouldn’t be classified in the final result.
As a result Byrne took the victory ahead of Hill and Brookes with James Westmoreland snatching fourth from Easton. Barry Burrell’s outstanding weekend continued with sixth ahead of the injured Tommy Bridewell, Noriyuki Haga and Jon Kirkham. Michael Laverty fought back up to tenth but that wasn’t enough for his title hopes and like Bridewell, he slipped out of mathematical contention.
Byrne’s bid is still alive and kicking though and the Londoner can wrap it all up if he outscores Brookes by eight points in race two. He admitted that he was happy just to emerge unscathed though given the heart stopping conclusion to today’s action.
“I have a feeling of relief, but also it is so good to have the race win. I was trying to do the maths a couple of laps earlier as I didn’t want the race to be stopped before a result could be declared. Coming through Clearways the last time it was horrible, the bike was snaking all over the place, so I am really pleased to take this win. Looking to the final two races, we’ve got a good race setting, I’m confident of my race pace and just hope the weather is good and I can stay ahead of these guys again.”