James Ellison resisted a race-long challenge from Shane Byrne to take the opening win of the weekend at Oulton Park. The Milwaukee Yamaha rider hit the front at the start of lap two and kept the championship leader at bay from that point on. Despite missing out on victory, second place was enough to see Byrne become the first rider to secure his place in the Showdown.
It took two attempts to get the race up and running with the initial race red flagged after a single lap following an incident at Hizzy’s chicane. Keith Farmer’s Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki let go, causing him to slide off, while the water spilled on the circuit brought Howie Mainwaring down too. Both were forced to line up at the back of the grid for the restart and they were joined by PJ Jacobsen after Tyco Suzuki missed the cut-off point to get their machine out of the pitlane to join the grid.
With a space on the front row now empty, Alex Lowes didn’t have as tough a job as he might have feared in reaching Old Hall first. The Samsung Honda rider’s supremacy was short-lived though as Ellison dived past him at the very same corner next time around. Byrne would demote his title rival to third at Island on lap six with Josh Brookes also following through moments later. Alex would regain the advantage over the Australian but he wouldn’t get close enough to split the top two who were setting a frenetic pace up out front.
Byrne shadowed Ellison for lap after lap, even setting the fastest lap of all two from the finish to secure pole position for race two, but James had all the answers and took the chequered flag 0.186s ahead of the Kawasaki. Lowes was a disappointed third given his qualifying dominance with Brookes having to hold off a fast finishing Tommy Bridewell who marked his first ride for Halsall Racing Kawasaki with a fine fifth.
Ryuichi Kiyonari recovered from a disastrous qualifying to salvage sixth, eleven places higher than he started, while PJ Jacobsen performed a minor miracle to finish seventh having started on the back row. The American pipped Jon Kirkham to keep his showdown hopes very much alive with Chris Walker doing likewise in ninth. James Westmoreland’s top six aspirations took a hit though when his Buildbase BMW hit problems early on, forcing him to pit.