Leon Haslam has made a bold statement in the opening race of the new MCE British Superbike season after cruising to victory on his JG Speedfit Kawasaki.
Haslam finished over five seconds clear of teammate Luke Mossey, after saving his tyres in the opening few laps of the race and making his move on James Ellison after eight laps.
The Kawaskai duo were joined by Christian Iddon on the podium, with the Tyco BMW man getting the better of Peter Hickman on the penultimate lap.
Ellison ended the race in fifth place after suffering with tyre issues, with Glenn Irwin (sixth) and Josh Brookes (seventh) crossing the line moments later.
Michael Laverty was next-up in eighth after suffering similar tyre issues to his Yamaha teammate. An impressive Jake Dixon and Jason O’Halloran rounded-out the top 10.
Ahead of the race start we found out that reigning champion, Shane Byrne would not be taking part in proceedings. The Be Wiser Ducati rider was ruled out with a concussion after suffering from a huge crash at Craner Curves during the morning warm-up session.
At the start of the race it was Haslam who initially got away well but he was then overtaken at turn one by an impressive Ellison, who made the leap from fifth on the grid to take the lead.
Behind the leading duo there was a close shave between Mossey and Brookes, with the latter being forced wide and dropping down to seventh place.
By the end of the first lap Ellison had already pulled out a lead of over half-a-second as he got his head down and tried to escape the clutches of the JG Speedfit Kawasaki pair.
Elsewhere there was disappointment for the debuting Bradley Ray, with the 19-year-old parking his Buildbase Suzuki back in the garage with a technical issue.
Behind the front three, the second McNams Yamaha of Laverty was beginning to make some progress as he made his way into fourth place at the Foggy Esses.
We lost John Hopkins from the race on lap seven, with the American suffering from some kind of mechanical issue on his Moto Rapido Ducati machine.
Moments later Haslam had the lead of the race after closing down Ellison. The “Pocket Rocket” forced his way down the inside of the Yamaha at Schwantz Curve – which also left Ellison vulnerable to a move from Mossey.
Mossey would take full advantage by going down the inside as the pair entered the Melbourne Loop. Meanwhile, further down the field, Taylor Mackenzie fell as he entered the hairpin before Billy Mcconnell’s race also came to an end after he crashed spectacularly at Goddards.
Haslam and Mossey began gap Ellison, with the Yamaha beginning to struggle with tyre issues. His teammate, Laverty, was also struggling and lost out to Hickman and Iddon within a couple of corners.
Sylvain Guintoli’s return to the series came to a premature end on lap 10 as he crashed out from seventh place going through the Foggy Esses.
Back towards the front, Hickman and Iddon had now caught-up with the other Yamaha of Ellison and were putting the pressure on the former race leader.
Hickman would go third at the Melbourne Loop, pushing Ellison wide in the process and allowing Iddon to take advantage and follow him through into fourth place.
Ellison soon found himself down in sixth place after Brookes found a way through at the very same corner a lap later. On the penultimate lap Iddon made a hard, late-breaking move down the inside of Hickman at the Foggy Esses to take the final podium spot.
There was more drama behind them as Ellison found some extra grip in his worn tyres to make a move back down the inside of Brookes at the Foggy Esses. Irwin would take advantage and stole sixth place away from the Australian.
Back at the front Haslam crossed the line to take a comfortable victory in the opening race of the new season – over five seconds clear of Mossey.