Haslam grabs BSB Championship lead

Track action (photo by BSB)Leon Haslam and Dan Linfoot shared the race victories in a dramatic opening round of the MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship Showdown,

putting the JG Speedfit Kawasaki back to the top of the standings as rookie Bradley Ray celebrated a debut podium finish at Oulton Park.

There was drama before the first race even got underway for Showdown contender Jake Dixon as the RAF Regular & Reserves Kawasaki team worked right up until the grid left for the warm up lap before he could exit the garage after his crash in warm up. Dixon started last and from the pitlane, but a determined ride from the 21-year-old saw him heroically carve his way through the pack to finish the race in an incredible fourth place.

Silverstone race winner Linfoot had fired himself into the lead on the opening lap from Showdown contenders Josh Brookes and defending champion Shane 'Shakey' Byrne with Peter Hickman, Haslam and Christian Iddon in close contention.

Brookes had moved into second place by the end of the first lap with the leading pack chopping and changing positions with Hickman soon up to second by the fourth lap. The Smiths Racing BMW rider was pushed back into third a lap later as Iddon moved ahead for Tyco BMW.

John Hopkins on the Moto Rapido Ducati was on a charge though and he surged his way into third a lap later as Linfoot continued to edge away at the front. Iddon was trying to close the gap, making a mistake which saw him run on through the chicane and then rejoin, still holding second but with Hopkins, Haslam, Hickman, Brookes and Byrne still ready to make their move.

Iddon though crashed out of contention on the tenth lap, elevating Hopkins and Haslam into second and third respectively as Byrne was dropping down the order on the Be Wiser Ducati. On the 15th lap there was drama for Linfoot as a problem with the Honda Fireblade saw him forced to retire and bring out the red flag, and that put Haslam into a winning position after he had made a move on Hopkins just a lap earlier.

James Ellison was able to get ahead of his McAMS Yamaha team-mate Michael Laverty to hold fifth place as Bradley Ray moved up to seventh in the closing stages as the rookie moved ahead of Showdown contenders Hickman, Byrne and Jason O'Halloran who bounced back from his crash yesterday.

A dry race two saw Linfoot secure his second race win in the Championship, coming back from the disappointment of a race one retirement to score a fantastic victory, holding off Haslam and rookie Bradley Ray to the line as the leading trio were covered by just 0.114s.

At the start Leon Haslam launched into the lead ahead of Dixon and Linfoot, but the RAF Regular & Reserves Kawasaki rider moved ahead on the opening lap to push his JG Speedfit Kawasaki rival back into second place.

Byrne started from the fourth row and he was pushing into the top ten by the second lap, but at the front Dixon was leading the pack from Linfoot, Haslam, Iddon and Hopkins. However after scoring a podium in race one, the American crashed out unhurt on the Moto Rapido Ducati.

Dixon was holding the lead, but Haslam was making a fight back, passing Linfoot into Lodge on the eighth lap with Ray also joining the scrap for the podium. On the tenth lap though Haslam hit the front of the pack with a decisive move at Lodge on the brakes. Dixon was dropping back and Linfoot had moved into second for Honda Racing and was waiting to make his move on the race leader.

Rookie Ray had moved into third place with a lunge on Dixon at Old Hall on the 15th lap. The 20-year-old was in close contention; however the podium order went down to the wire with Haslam leading as the trio crossed the line to start the final lap.

Linfoot made his move at Old Hall to take the lead but Haslam instantly fought back to move back ahead on the JG Speedfit Kawasaki. It wasn’t over though as Linfoot did everything he could to make a move back and he did just that and the pair crossed the line virtually inseparable but it was the Honda Fireblade who had the edge.

For Ray the third place marked his debut podium finish in MCE BSB as he became the 15th different podium finisher in the 2017 season and score the first top three finish for the new Suzuki.

Hickman was the second of the Showdown contenders, finishing in fourth place after fighting his way ahead of Brookes and Dixon with Byrne finishing seventh to drop to third in the overall standings.

O'Halloran was the sixth of the Showdown riders in eighth place after getting ahead of Iddon and Ellison who completed the top ten for McAMS Yamaha.

MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship, Oulton Park, Race 1 result:
1. Leon Haslam (JG Speedfit Kawasaki)
2. John Hopkins (Moto Rapido Ducati) +0.314s
3. Josh Brookes (Anvil Hire TAG Yamaha) +9.690s
4. Jake Dixon (RAF Regular & Reserves Kawasaki) +11.464s
5. James Ellison (McAMS Yamaha) +12.369s
6. Michael Laverty (McAMS Yamaha) +12.630s
7. Bradley Ray (Buildbase Suzuki) +18.370s
8. Peter Hickman (Smiths Racing BMW) +19.903s
9. Shane 'Shakey' Byrne (Be Wiser Ducati) +20.497s
10. Jason O'Halloran (Honda Racing) +20.758s
MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship, Oulton Park, Race 2 result:
1. Dan Linfoot (Honda Racing)
2. Leon Haslam (JG Speedfit Kawasaki) +0.054s
3. Bradley Ray (Buildbase Suzuki) +0.114s
4. Peter Hickman (Smiths Racing BMW) +1.514s
5. Josh Brookes (Anvil Hire TAG Yamaha) +1.730s
6. Jake Dixon (RAF Regular & Reserves Kawasaki) +3.265s
7. Shane Byrne (Be Wiser Ducati) +4.062s
8. Jason O'Halloran (Honda Racing) +4.607s
9. Christian Iddon (Tyco BMW) +12.554s
10. James Ellison (JG Speedfit Kawasaki) +18.395s
MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship standings after Oulton Park:
1. Leon Haslam (JG Speedfit Kawasaki) 571
2. Josh Brookes (Anvil Hire TAG Yamaha) 549
3. Shane Byrne (Be Wiser Ducati) 548
4. Jake Dixon (RAF Regular & Reserves Kawasaki) 541
5. Peter Hickman (Smiths Racing BMW) 530
6. Jason O'Halloran (Honda Racing) 517

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