Shane Byrne and James Ellison claimed a victory each as the 2013 British Superbike Championship burst into life at Brands Hatch. The defending champion won his sixth race in succession at the Kent circuit but he would have to settle for third after an incident with eventual winner Ellison which saw ‘Shakey’ take to the grass at Surtees.
The day ended in celebration for Ellison but it began with bizarre scenes on the dummy grid before race one when his visor came loose, forcing him into the pitlane. The Milwaukee Yamaha rider would be given a ride through penalty for starting in his original position rather than the back of the grid, leaving him out the points altogether.
After overhauling early leader Josh Brookes, Byrne eased to victory ahead of Samsung Honda’s Alex Lowes with Brookes hanging on to the last place on the podium. The race was stopped slightly early though after a sickening crash involving Dan Linfoot and James Westmoreland. The GBmoto rider was clipped by Keith Farmer while battling for sixth, falling into the path of Westmoreland who was unable to avoid him. Thankfully, both avoided serious injuries although Linfoot will be sidelined for the foreseeable future with multiple fractures to his pelvis.
The flashpoint in the second race came four laps from home as Byrne dived up the inside of Ellison for the lead. The Lancaster rider closed the door as Byrne made his move, forcing him to pick up his Kawasaki and ride across the grass before getting to Clearways. As a result, Ellison eased away to a popular victory while the delay for Byrne promoted Alex Lowes to another second place.
Byrne still claimed the final place on the podium and leaves his home track with a one point championship lead over Lowes, a result he admits he would have settled for coming into the weekend.
“It’s nice to get the first two races and pre-season nerves out of the way and to come away with a first and a third is a good start and I’m happy with how the day’s gone. The first race couldn’t have gone any better to be fair and once I decided to make my move I was able to open up a bit of a cushion over Alex. I was biding my time in the second race as well and thought James had presented me with an opportunity but he tipped in earlier than I anticipated and it was very close! Luckily we had a gap to the rest of the field and I was able to re-join in third so with a win and a third, and a one point championship lead, it’s all been good.”
Brookes lies third, fourteen points back, with Ellison’s maximum score in race two lifting him to fourth ahead of Jon Kirkham courtesy of the BMW rider’s two top-six finishes. The highly anticipated return of Ryuichi Kiyonari didn’t exactly go to plan with fourth in race two the highlight but the Japanese rider will arrive in Thruxton next weekend in possession of the sixth showdown spot.