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Alex Lowes heads into the MCE British Superbike Championship Title Showdown with four consecutive wins under his belt after holding off a determined Shane Byrne for a double victory at Donington Park, while James Westmoreland sneaked the sixth and final spot for the upcoming shootout.
Prevailing in a more frenetic battle than his lights-to-flag success in race one, though Lowes once again led from almost start-to-finish in race two, he was still forced to battle back against Byrne on the last lap as the reigning champion attempting to wrest the lead off his title rival at the final opportunity.
Indeed, the build-up to the last lap exchange had been a lively one as Lowes headed up a six-way train from the opening lap, the Samsung Honda rider nosing ahead of fast-starter James Ellison from the Old Hairpin.
With the opening lap ending in the order of Lowes, Byrne, Josh Brookes, Ellison, Westmoreland – getting a slightly better get-away from pole position than in race one – and Tommy Bridewell, the sextet would circulate in tandem to pull away from seventh place Jon Kirkham.
Indeed, despite the poor start, while Westmoreland's fifth place at this stage wouldn't be enough to overhaul Kirkham in the fight for the sixth and final Title Showdown spot, he was at least well in contention with the leaders as he pumped in a new fastest lap.
It was momentum he would carry past Brookes to fourth on lap six at Melbourne, just moments after Ellison had nosed ahead into the Esses.
With Ellison on the move, the Milwaukee Yamaha rider would pull off a similar pass on Byrne for second on lap eight, with Westmoreland eager to follow through yet again. However, the Buildbase BMW rider would find himself on the outside line into the hairpin, thus allowing Tommy Bridewell past both into third place. Demoting Westmoreland into fifth once again, staying in this position would swing the pendulum in favour of Kirkham.
However, Westmoreland's fortunes would take a significant upturn on lap ten when a charging Ellison would attempt to make a move on Lowes for the lead at the Esses. However, the former BSB runner-up would mis-judge his braking and carry on across the gravel trap.
Eliminating him out of the victory equation, Ellison resumed in sixth to keep Kirkham in seventh, but allow Westmoreland up into fourth position. In this scenario, the two riders would finish equal on points, but Westmoreland would get the nod on count-back.
With Bridewell, Westmoreland and Brookes holding firm in third, fourth and fifth respectively, well ahead of Ellison, attention turned to whether Byrne could get the better of Lowes to deny him another double BSB success.
Having missed out on launching an attack on the last lap of race one when a false neutral on the run to the Esses didn't give him enough momentum, Byrne wouldn't make the same mistake twice as he speared out of Coppice on the final revolution to dive in front. However, Byrne's eagerness to get back to the racing line would allow a cool Lowes to come back alongside into the braking zone, the Honda rider slipping through into the Esses.
With just two corners remaining, Byrne attempted to respond but Lowes would keep his lines tidy to cross the line for his fourth consecutive win, in turn becoming the first rider since Leon Camier in 2009 to achieve such a feat.
As well as taking momentum into the Title Showdown, it also means Lowes has shortened the gap to Byrne ahead of the three-round shootout, the reigning champion getting underway on 539 points with Lowes on 533.
Though it would come just too late for him to consider getting into the Title Showdown, Bridewell held on to score a second rostrum finish in three races with a fine third place on the Halsall Kawasaki. It means he heads into the final three rounds as the favourite for the 'BSB Cup'.
Instead, it was Westmoreland that was celebrating scoring the sixth and final Title Showdown position at the expense of his team-mate Kirkham after holding off Brookes for fourth place.
Such was the close contest between the two team-mates (both winners of the BSB Cup for finishing as the highest non-Showdown contenders in 2011 and 2012) that it would come down to whom had the most sixth place finishes since each had an equal number of fourth and fifth place results under their belt so far this season. In the end, Westmoreland's five sixth place finishes, compared with Kirkham's three sixth place finishes would see the former come out on top by an agonisingly miniscule margin.
While neither rider nor machine has managed a podium finish in BSB yet, Westmoreland will nonetheless start the Showdown on 500 points, while Brookes, Ellison and Ryuichi Kiyonari have 522, 513 and 504 points respectively.
Back in the race, Ellison came home a quiet sixth in the end, ahead of a disappointed Kirkham in seventh, while Chris Walker, PJ Jacobsen and Jakub Smrz completed the top ten.
Into the Title Showdown despite failing to score a top ten finish this weekend, Kiyonari was 11th across the line, while Josh Waters, Peter Hickman, Dan Linfoot and Michael Rutter rounded out the points' paying