Howie Mainwaring claimed a memorable first victory for himself and the Quattro Plant Kawasaki team on a day dominated by events involving the championship challengers. Ryuichi Kiyonari missed the opening race after fracturing his left collarbone in FP3 but the Japanese star received an extraordinary reprieve as Shane Byrne crashed out of a rain-affected race one, keeping the gap at 12 points.
The dramatic turn of events was all triggered by overnight rain at Brands Hatch and in the early stages of final practice, Kiyonari highsided his BMW at Graham Hill bend. The Buildbase rider was soon diagnosed with a collarbone injury and took no part in qualifying, or the opening race, and his participation tomorrow remains in serious doubt.
In his absence, James Ellison claimed the first BSB pole position of his career ahead of Byrne and Josh Brookes but none of them would feature in a gripping battle for victory. ‘Shakey’ ran second early on behind a rapid Dan Linfoot and exiting Clearways on lap eight, the rear end of the Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki gave way, taking him out of the race and neutralising the championship situation.
Speaking after the race, Byrne was at a lost to explain the accident and didn’t feel he had done anything different to previous laps.
“I thought I’ll just sit here, watch the gap behind me and sat in second but you know you come into Clearways, and we had a similar situation in the wet qualifying in August when loads of us fell down, nothing any different and then the next thing you’re on your rear. I was sliding through the gravel actually thinking how did that just happen?! I’ve done nothing different why?”
Linfoot, chasing third in the championship, was shuffled back to fourth by an inspired Mainwaring and rain-specialists Josh Waters and Jon Kirkham. Mainwaring, who had started twelfth on the grid, hit the front for the first time on lap twelve and came under intense pressure from Waters but despite a valiant effort from the Australian, Howie held on for his maiden victory.
Kirkham completed the podium ahead of Linfoot with Tommy Bridewell finishing fifth to move third in the championship standings, a point clear of Brookes who toiled to eighth behind Stuart Easton and James Ellison.