Alex Lowes picked the perfect moment to claim his first British Superbike victories, doing the double at Silverstone to close on championship rivals Shane Byrne and Josh Brookes. The 22 year old is now just 24 points off the overall lead and will head to the Brands Hatch decider with a real chance of becoming the youngest ever British Superbike champion.
Lowes had dominated qualifying but didn’t enjoy the same level of comfort on Sunday afternoon. Michael Laverty stormed into the lead at the start of race one and although Lowes would pass him within three laps, Byrne would take the pair of them to lead at Stowe. The Londoner threw away any chance he had of victory though by outbraking himself into Brooklands, falling to sixth, and giving Lowes a lead that would stick until the end.
Byrne recovered to second after passing Laverty at Stowe on the final lap with Josh Brookes holding off James Westmoreland for fourth. Tommy Bridewell set the fastest lap of the race on his way to sixth but Tommy Hill’s hopes of successfully defending his title suffered another blow as he finished an uncompetitive seventh, a result that couldn’t better in the second race.
Race two proved to be an absolute thriller with Byrne, Lowes and Brookes slugging it out in the closing stages. With a lap to go, ‘Shakey’ looked to have it in the bag with a half-second lead over Lowes who was busy fending off a determined Brookes. Byrne hadn’t bargained for a sensational lap from the WFR Honda rider who closed relentlessly before charging up the inside into Luffield. Byrne couldn’t fightback on the run to the line and had to settle for second although he did move nine points clear of Brookes who claimed third.
The day belonged to Lowes though who is using the showdown format to his advantage. In the ‘regular season’, Alex trailed Tommy Hill by 206 points but come the Brands Hatch decider, he will take part in a title showdown which mathematically could still go six ways.
“I’ve loved every minute of it”, said Lowes after his winning double. “The bike is working well and I have worked hard. Last year was a confidence killer for me but this team has stood by me. I didn’t expect to win this season, maybe I’ve had a bit of luck but I have enjoyed these races. I felt pretty good in the opener and was really happy with the ride.
“In the second race I was nearly off with two or three laps to go but fought back at Shakey and managed to sneak up the inside of him at the last corner and then turn more tightly. Ten years ago he was my hero in World Superbikes and I was able to pull that cheeky move on him – I enjoyed that. I just crept into the Showdown and I will enjoy the final three races and what will be will be.”
Byrne will head to his home circuit nine points ahead of Brookes and 24 ahead of Lowes. Tommy Hill must come from 44 points back to retain his crown while Michael Laverty is handicapped by a further seven points. Tommy Bridewell will need three wins and a whole lot of luck to become champion, he trails by 66, but with three races on the final weekend and 75 points up for grabs, he still remains a contender, just.