Shane Byrne got the better of man of the moment Bradley Ray to take victory in today’s opening Bennetts British Superbike battle at Brands Hatch.
Polesitter Ray shot off the start to lead into turn one, but having managed to avoid one of his characteristically bad starts, Byrne was able to latch on to the rear of the Buildbase Suzuki.
The duo were matched on pace lap by lap as they broke away from the chasing pack with Ray clocking up a new lap record (45’201) on the third lap.
20-year-old Ray was inch perfect lap by lap, leaving Byrne no opportunity to get past until a slight slip up at Paddock Hill on the penultimate lap saw him run wide and allow the Ducati not just an opening to pass but enough breathing space to cross the line 0.8 seconds ahead.
Jason O’Halloran charged through the pack from ninth on the grid to turn Honda Racing’s fortune around with a podium finish ahead of Leon Haslam, who will be disappointed to have crossed the line fourth for JG Speedfit Kawasaki.
Christian Iddon was fifth on the Tyco BMW ahead of the RAF Regular and Reserves Kawasaki of Jake Dixon.
Be Wiser Ducati’s Glenn Irwin crossed the line seventh ahead of Michael Laverty, who had fought in the battle for the podium earlier in the race.
Tommy Bridewell was ninth for Movuno.com Halsall Racing Suzuki with the Smiths BMW of Peter Hickman rounding out the top ten.
The second Buildbase Suzuki of Richard Cooper crashed out of a top ten finish at Graham Hill bend.
2017 series runner-up Josh Brookes took a dismal 13th place finish as he continues to struggle with grip woes, two places behind rookie team-mate Tarran Mackenize.