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Kiyonari wins as Byrne, Hopkins clash

3 July 2011

Ryuichi Kiyonari has returned to the top of the British Superbike Championship podium after taking advantage of a collision between title rivals Shane Byrne and John Hopkins on the final lap of race two at Snetterton.

Ending a spell of poor form for the reigning champion, one that hasn't seen him on the podium at all since winning during the second round at Oulton Park, the Japanese rider found himself in the right place when the lead opened up for him with just mere corners of the race remaining.

An exciting race defined by some close action between the top riders, the second encounter began dramatically when Hopkins snatched the lead from pole sitter Kiyonari into the opening bend.

Kiyonari attempted to re-pass into Montreal, but having had his move baulked by Hopkins, the loss of speed caught out the close following Hill behind him, the Swan Yamaha man clipping the back of the Honda and coming down. Though he remounted, he would pull into the pit lane to retire.

As the race began to stretch out, Hopkins led Kiyonari, Josh Brookes, Michael Laverty and Byrne, but just as Kiyonari looked capable of overhauling Hopkins, the red flag was deployed for a massive accident involving Simon Andrews and Steve Brogan.

The pair came down at high-speed at Riches on lap six after being caught out on fluid deposited by Alex Lowes's sudden-expiring MSS Colchester Kawasaki. Replays of the accident would show both the Jentin Honda and the PR Kawasaki bikes smashing into the barriers and catapulting into the air. Latest updates on the riders suggest Andrews has suffered a broken leg, while Brogan has a shoulder injury.

The ensuing restart would be run over nine laps, with a grid based on the positions at the end of lap six. As such, Hopkins headed up a front row of himself, Kiyonari, Brookes and Byrne.

At the lights, Hopkins squeezed into the lead, ahead of Brookes and Byrne, though the 2008 champion would edge ahead of the Suzuki rider by the end of lap two.

Brookes proceeded to slip into the clutches of Kiyonari, the Australian defending well until his rival pinned down a move with less than two laps remaining.

Up front, Byrne was stalking Hopkins carefully, launching a magnificent pass up the inside of Coram, one that caught his rival unawares and dropped him to second position with just a lap remaining. Even so, having snatched victory from Hill on the final lap of race one, Hopkins looked confident as he sized up Byrne for a re-pass.

However, his rather late dive down the inside of Byrne at Oggie's would prove somewhat ill-judged, the pair making contact and becoming hooked up together as they rounded the bend. Both were sent wide on the exit, with the close-following Kiyonari slipping beneath the pair to grab the lead.

Hopkins resumed in second place, but was promptly swallowed up by Brookes, who also pushed his way past into the Bombhole. Byrne, meanwhile, was forced to take a trip across the grass, dropping him to fourth.

The drama duly allowed Kiyonari to score a somewhat unexpected victory, the three-time title winner proving he is still a championship contender despite his lacklustre recent form.

Brookes held on for second to record his first podium result for Relentless by TAS Suzuki. More significantly, however, his decent points' haul – coupled to problems for others – sees him leap from 12th to the all-important sixth place in the overall standings.

A slightly bashful Hopkins collected the points for third, the American apologising for the outcome of his actions, but maintaining his right to have attempted a pass. A frustrated Byrne crossed the line fourth, but retains a comfortable championship advantage.

Behind the drama unfolding up front, Michael Laverty came home a quiet fifth place on the Swan Yamaha, ahead of Martin Jessopp, who claimed his first top six finish since the leg injury that ruled him out of most of the 2010 season.

Loris Baz picked up seventh, capitalising on Jon Kirkham's crash out of the position with two laps remaining, while Chris Walker completed a second top ten finish of the day in eighth.

Ian Lowry's ninth marks the first top ten finish for the Buildbase BMW team this year, while Jake Zemke notched up his maiden EVO class victory in only his second meeting with an excellent run to tenth place overall.

In the lower reaches of the points, Gary Mason, Dan Linfoot, Glen Richards, Barry Burrell and Patric Muff completed the top fifteen.


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