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Alex Lowes has taken a magnificent double MCE British Superbike Championship victory at Silverstone after prevailing in an enthralling last lap battle with Shane Byrne and Josh Brookes.
Following on from his dominant maiden BSB win in race one, Lowes was made to work much harder for his second triumph in what became a breathless – and at times boisterous – race amongst the leading title protagonists.
Indeed, despite his earlier success and the fact he was rarely outside the top three during the entire race, Lowes did not look like the early favourite for the win as Byrne and Michael Laverty established the early running.
Swapping the lead constantly, Laverty often nosing ahead into Maggots before Byrne drafted by down the Hangar Straight, their battle almost ended in disaster on lap five when the pair made contact through the Arena complex. Though Laverty held firm, Byrne slipped to fourth behind Lowes and Tommy Bridewell.
Nonetheless, Byrne quickly worked his way back into contention – passing both Lowes and Bridewell with a superb single move on lap six – to latch himself onto the tail of Laverty once again.
Keen to get involved in the battle ahead, Lowes began to make his presence felt on lap nine of fourteen when he sneaked by Byrne at Vale and swiftly pulled ahead of Laverty into Abbey.
At this point Laverty started to slip out of contention, being overtaken by Byrne and then by Brookes, the Tyco Suzuki rider perfecting his late charge to go away with Lowes and Byrne out front.
Though Byrne pulled back ahead on lap eleven, there remained little to choose between the trio as the race entered its latter stages.
Even so, when Lowes touched the back wheel of Byrne's bike at Stowe on the penultimate lap, thus losing him momentum and dropping him into the clutches of Brookes, it seemed Byrne had the break he needed to run out the winner.
Undeterred, Lowes kept pushing, getting back onto the tail of Byrne as they entered the final corners, the race leader adopting a defensive line that simply spurred Lowes into a determined last turn overtaking attempt.
Taking advantage of the smallest of gaps, Lowes dived for the inside of Byrne, but while they would make slight contact as Byrne attempted to close the door, Lowes held firm to emerge ahead, a margin he would take to the chequered flag just metres later.
An outstanding breakthrough weekend for Lowes, who managed a perfect set of topping each practice session, claiming pole position and two race wins, he heads into the final round triple header at Brands Hatch with a convincing shot at winning the title.
However, he will face a task to overhaul the 24 point margin to Byrne, who can console himself in the knowledge that he is the big favourite to claim the 2012 title around the circuit he was a double winner at earlier this season.
The two-time champion heads into the final round with a nine point advantage over Brookes, who was at least able to keep Byrne honest by crossing the line just behind him in third place during race two.
Bridewell completed a successful day in fourth after passing Laverty late on, but there were fewer smiles to be enjoyed in the Swan Yamaha camp as Tommy Hill laboured to a seventh place finish behind Luca Scassa.
The Swan Yamaha rider, who endured a dismal weekend at Assen to lose his pre-Showdown advantage, could only manage seventh in race one when he opted for the wrong tyre, but fared no better in race two as he finished ten seconds off the lead. The reigning champion is now 42 points behind Byrne and on the cusp of losing his crown.
Behind him, Chris Walker, James Westmoreland and Peter Hickman completed the top ten – the trio benefitting when the unfortunate Robbin Harms retired ahead of them -, while Barry Burrell, Jakub Smrz, Ian Lowry, Jon Kirkham and Noriyuki Haga picked up the remaining points in 11th to 15th.