Hopkins doubles up to take series lead
11 September 2011
John Hopkins is leading the MCE British Superbike Championship for the first time after sealing his second win of the day at Donington Park, while Shane Byrne and Michael Laverty have seen their title hopes take a blow after colliding at the first corner.
The Samsung Crescent Suzuki rider had moved to within two points of Tommy Hill with his impressive victory in the first race around the Leicestershire circuit, but a comfortable victory in the second race has seen him nose three points ahead.
Following an entertaining four-way dice for victory in race one, the stage was set for a similar battle in race two as Hopkins, Hill, Shane Byrne and Michael Laverty made up the front row of the grid.
As with the opening race, Byrne and Laverty got away best as they dived into the opening bend side-by-side, Laverty slipping beneath his rival.
However, with Byrne seemingly unaware of Laverty's presence, he tipped in, squeezing Laverty against the inside kerb and causing him to fall. Washing out into the path of Byrne, both riders were sent across the gravel trap and out of contention.
Their altercation released Hill into the lead of the race, with Hopkins in close company, while Ryuichi Kiyonari was one of the big beneficiaries to move into third position.
With a new engine in his Swan Yamaha, having complained of being down on power in the first race, Hill still found himself vulnerable to Hopkins as they came down the back straight, the American proving braver on the brakes heading into Esses on lap five as he swept into the lead.
It would prove the decisive moment of the race, with Hill's attempts to respond limited to a mid-race rally. Indeed, having fended off that attack, Hopkins duly began to pull out his gap, crossing the line with a margin of two seconds.
Hill, who was expected to have the edge on his rivals having smashed the lap record in qualifying, ended up a somewhat disgruntled second, though he remains very much in contention up at the front of the field.
Even so, Byrne hasn't suffered so much in the standings after launching an outstanding fight back through the field, eventually crossing the line in eighth for eight potentially crucial points. Laverty, meanwhile, was also able to squeeze into the points in 14th.
Back towards the front, Jon Kirkham made it an outstanding day for the Samsung Crescent Suzuki team in third place, only his second career podium at BSB level, while Rapid Bathams Ducati rider Martin Jessopp was an exceptional fourth – his best-ever BSB finish – after coming out top in an entertaining scrap with Josh Brookes.
Behind Brookes, Kiyonari faded as the race wore on to cross the line sixth, marginally ahead of James Ellison. Behind the remarkable Byrne, Chris Walker and Graeme Gowland rounded out the top ten, the latter sealing another EVO win despite being left at the back of the field after getting crossed up in the Byrne/Laverty incident.
Tommy Bridewell came home 11th on the Motorpoint Yamaha, ahead of his predecessor James Westmoreland, Buildbase BMW's Barry Burrell, the recovering Laverty and EVO series leader Glen Richards.