Leon Haslam controlled proceedings in an incident-packed opening race at Oulton Park to take victory and move up into second spot in the championship.
The JG Speedfit Kawasaki rider managed to get the better of Jake Dixon to take his seventh victory from the last nine races at the Cheshire circuit. Dixon remained comfortable in second to take his first podium of the season.
The leading duo were joined on the podium by reigning champion Shane Byrne, who fought back from a slow start to the race to take third spot. Byrne had made it onto the podium by passing Bradley Ray (fourth) and Jason O’Halloran (fifth).
Josh Brookes took advantage of several incidents in front of him to take sixth spot on the McAMS Yamaha, ahead of Danny Buchan in seventh and Tommy Bridewell in eighth. Tarran Mackeznie and Richard Cooper closed out the top 10, with the returning Ryuichi Kiyonari ending the race in 12th.
Michael Laverty, Peter Hickman, Kyle Ryde, Glenn Irwin, Carl Phillips, Luke Mossey and Taylor Mackenzie all crashed out of the race.
The start of the race saw Dixon launch into the lead by turn one, with Haslam also getting away well to take second spot. Byrne made a slow start and found himself down in sixth by the end of the opening lap. Both Anvil TAG Racing Yamaha riders, James Ellison and Shaun Winfield, ran straight on at Hizzy’s – costing them valuable places early on.
Laverty was the first rider to crash out of the race, as he lost the front of his Tyco BMW going into Lodge. At the front, Dixon was beginning to pull away from the chasing pack and put in the fastest lap of the race on lap three.
The following lap saw three separate accidents, beginning with Hickman losing the rear coming through Cascades and crashing out of seventh spot. Moments later Ryde was down at Druids, followed by Irwin crashing out of third spot at Island Bend. Irwin’s crash was visibly similar to that of Hickman earlier in the lap.
Irwin’s crash had caught out O’Halloran momentarily and Ray took advantage to move up into the final podium position. We had another crash on lap five, as Phillips fell at Lodge.
The chaos behind them had allowed Dixon and Haslam to pull away at the front, with the latter all over the back of the leader. Haslam made his move going into the final corner on lap seven and began to pull away.
Behind them, Mossey suffered from a high-speed crash at Druids and was seen hold his wrist in the aftermath. He was taken to the medical centre for a check-up afterwards. On the same lap, Taylor Mackenzie’s race came to an end as he fell going through the final corner.
The top five had well and truly split into two separate groups by lap 11, with Ray, O’Halloran and Byrne battling it out for the final podium spot. Byrne made a tough move on O’Halloran going into Hizzy’s, squeezing the Honda rider out of the way.
A lap later Byrne went down the inside of Ray heading into Lodge and pulled away quite easily from the championship leader.
Back at the front Haslam was controlling the pace, with Dixon unable to put himself in a position to attack. Haslam would take the victory with a comfortable lead of 1.624s and moved up into second in the championship – just two points behind Ray.