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Croft: Haslam wins, Byrne forced to wait
14 September 2008
Leon Haslam maintained his recent strong form in the Bennetts British Superbike Championship at Croft with victory in the second race of the weekend – his fourth win in the last five races.
Haslam took the chequered flag ahead of Tom Sykes and HM Plant Honda team-mate Cal Crutchlow for a result that lifts him ahead of Sykes into second place in the championship standings and which ensures Shane Byrne will need to wait until Silverstone at least to secure the 2008 title.
At the start of the race, Crutchlow held the lead from pole position ahead of Michael Rutter, although the NW200 Ducati man was soon demoted to third by Sykes, with race one winner Leon Camier in fourth, Haslam in fifth and Michael Laverty completing the top six. Byrne meanwhile had gone backwards on the opening lap and was down in tenth place.
The top positions remained static until the third lap, when Camier went into the Hairpin too hot and forced Rutter wide to take avoiding action. Camier was able to take third place as a result, while Haslam also took his chance to get ahead of Rutter into fourth.
Crutchlow and Sykes had been able to break away slightly thanks to the battle behind, with the Rizla Suzuki seemingly able to close onto the Honda during the slow sections of the lap only for Crutchlow to then eek out his advantage again through the quick run from Tower through to the final Complex. Byrne meanwhile was continuing to make progress towards the front of the field and by lap seven had climbed into sixth place and was closing in on Rutter ahead.
Haslam and Camier quickly closed the gap to Crutchlow and Sykes ahead, but on ten the order at the front changed as Sykes slipped up the inside at the Hairpin to move into the lead of the race. While the top four circulated as one, Byrne had caught Rutter and a brave move up the inside at Hawthornes took him to fifth place.
As Byrne closed in, Camier made a move on Haslam for third at the Hairpin but didn't hold position for long as the Honda man took the place back at Clervaux straightaway. Haslam then set about trying to take second from Crutchlow and on lap 16, he got a run out of Tower but couldn't make the move stick. He then tried again at the Complex, but again saw Crutchlow fight back to keep the position. While all this was happening, Byrne had now caught the top four and was right behind team-mate Camier.
On lap 18, Camier stuck out a leg on the run to Tower to give Byrne the sign to come past and the points leader slipped through to fourth place while just ahead, Haslam had finally been able to pull a move on Crutchlow for second. Quickly he was closing on Sykes for the win and on the penultimate lap, he blasted past the Rizla man into the lead.
There wasn't time for Sykes to fight back through the final lap and Haslam duly took another win to continue his rich run of form and climbed ahead of Sykes in the points standings as a result. Crutchlow completed the podium despite a storming final lap from Byrne who was forced to settle for fourth from Camier and Rutter – who once again found himself enduring a lonely run to sixth.
James Ellison took seventh from Karl Harris, with Simon Andrews and Michael Laverty rounding out the top ten.
For the second successive race, the Cup honours went the way of Gary Mason on the Quay Garage Honda in eleventh overall, but 16th overall and second in class was good enough to secure the title for John Laverty who finished ahead of nearest rival Martin Jessop in both races to take an unassailable 127 point lead in the standings.
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