Leon Haslam did exactly what he needed to do to keep the 2016 MCE British Superbike title fight alive at Assen this weekend, leaving the Dutch circuit with two dominant victories.
After beating Byrne by 0.01 seconds in the opening race, the JG Speedfit Kawasaki man knew he’d have a fight on his hands, but he was handed an opportunity to potentially eat away at Byrne’s gap as the four-time champion suffered an awful start.
However, even with Byrne back in 12th Haslam was far from safe with the remaining Showdown contenders all scrapping for the lead in the opening stages of the race.
A mid-race surge from Honda Racing’s Jason O’Halloran saw him briefly lead the race with 11 bikes in sight of the leading trio of the Aussie, Haslam and Ellison.
Stuck behind Richard Cooper in seventh, it took a while for Byrne to make his way through the pack, moving into podium contention with just three laps to go. Taking second at the start of the 17th lap, he had just two laps to catch Haslam who had begun to edge a gap.
While he was able to catch his championship rival, Byrne wasn’t able to pass his 2016 nemesis and was forced to settle for second.
Honda’s O’Halloran completed the podium ahead of team-mate Dan Linfoot, with Luke Mossey taking an improved fifth. Michael Laverty once again rounded out the top six as he made a slight return to form.
Ellison ended up seventh after taking evasive action to avoid Linfoot on the final lap in the battle for fourth, with Iddon, Parkes and Cooper rounding out he top ten.
Byrne now leads the championship over Haslam by 17 points, with Linfoot now 67 points off in third.
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