Josh Brookes overtook Shane Byrne in the MCE British Superbike Championship standings with a victory in the first race at Thruxton.
The Milwaukee Yamaha rider won the red flag-affected contest by three seconds ahead of Dan Linfoot on the #4 Honda Racing machine and JG Speedfit Kawasaki’s James Westmoreland in third.
The race distance was reduced to 15 laps after a dramatic incident involving James Ellison, Richard Cooper and Christian Iddon on the fifth tour which brought out the red flag. Cooper’s Kawasaki engine blew on the back leg of the circuit, dropping oil in the path of Ellison and Iddon who had been battling for fifth. Ellison’s bike then careered into the safety barriers, while Iddon was able to bring his Suzuki back to the pits for repairs. Both riders were reported unharmed after the incident.
Despite manufacturing a 1.5s lead in the opening five laps, pole-sitter Brookes had his work cut out at the restart. Starting from the outside of the front row, Brookes was swallowed up by an inspired John Hopkins heading into the first corner, and only just managed to keep the charging Honda of Linfoot at bay.
Hopkins did manage to build up a gap to his pursuers in the opening laps, although this advantage proved to be superficial as Brookes began to reel in his American rival.
Meanwhile, championship leader Byrne was forcing his way through the pack after starting 14th, working his way up to fifth past the Tyco BMW of Tommy Bridewell on lap three. Danny Buchan, riding the black and yellow Be Wiser Kawasaki, soon joined in the action, moving up to fifth with a decisive overtake on Howie Mainwaring.
At the same time, Brookes made the crucial move that would go on to seal the race result, lunging past Hopkins as the last of the late brakers heading into the chicane. The leading trio remained in close order for the next few laps, until Hopkins had to surrender his podium place after a mechanical failure struck his Ducati.
This promoted Westmoreland, who was now at the head of the train that included Byrne, to third overall, eight seconds adrift of Brookes. Brookes, now comfortably ahead of Linfoot, held on to take his third consecutive British Superbikes victory of the season, as well as the advantage in the championship fight. Westmoreland kept his cool to fend of Byrne in fourth, while Mainwaring profited from a heavy last-corner clash between Buchan and Bridewell to secure fifth place.
The win places Brookes seven points ahead of Byrne in the riders’ championship, while Ellison remains in third despite his non-finish.
The second British Superbikes race from Thruxton is due to start at 16:30.