John Hopkins has closed the gap on Tommy Hill and Shane Byrne in the fight for the 2011 MCE British Superbike Championship title after prevailing in an absorbing encounter at Donington
The race lived up to its billing as a showdown with Hopkins, Hill, Byrne and Michael Laverty all dicing for position from start-to-finish, though it would take a couple of key moments for Hopkins to emerge on top.
Indeed, the race initially began as an exchange between Byrne and Laverty, the HM Plant Honda rider slicing his way to the front into Redgate from fifth on the grid, though Laverty would snatch the position back midway around the first lap.
Hill – who had dominated free practice and smashed the lap record in qualifying - held third initially, only for Hopkins to move ahead of him on lap two. Simultaneously, Byrne was back in as well, even if this didn't translate to him stretching the field out.
Indeed, with the top four bunched up – and Jon Kirkham and Peter Hickman keeping a watching brief in fifth and sixth -, any error was waiting to be pounced upon.
That almost came on lap ten when Byrne ran wide into the final corner, allowing Hill, who had now fought his way past both Hopkins and Laverty, to get a run on him.
While it didn't change the order, it served to bunch things up again and gave Hill the confidence to attempt a pass at the same corner two laps later. However, the slightly rushed entry would catch Byrne unawares, sending both riders wide and giving Laverty and Hopkins the chance to pass both.
Almost four abreast across the finish line, though Hopkins's greater momentum carried him past both Byrne and Hill into the braking area, it was Laverty's braver early turn-in that took him through into the lead, ahead of the Suzuki man. Byrne and Hill, meanwhile, were down to third and fourth respectively.
This would prove the critical moment of the race, with both Laverty and Hopkins gapping Byrne and Hill, the pair unsettled by their close coming together.