Tom Sykes has romped to his third consecutive Bennetts British Superbike victory after a masterful performance at damp-to-dry Knockhill.
Capitalising on a superb start from seventh on the grid, Sykes prevailed in an entertaining battle with Michael Rutter to eventually run out an easy three second winner over Shane Byrne and James Ellison.
A bruising encounter for several of the 28-strong field, the first race of the weekend always promised to throw up some incidents as riders put their faith in the dry line that was appearing on the warm-up lap by fitting slick tyres.
However, with plenty of damp patches across the grid, the run down to the first corner would always favour those in the centre of the line out.
Sure enough, when the lights went green it was second placed Rutter who got away best, the experienced rider dipping into Butchers ahead of a determined Sykes, pole sitter Leon Haslam and Ellison, who made a fantastic getaway to lift himself up from eighth place off the line.
Byrne, who appeared to react best to the lights, funnelled into fifth, ahead of team-mate Leon Camier, while Cal Crutchlow and Michael Laverty – who started on the outside of their respective rows on the grid – found themselves down in seventh and ninth.
While Rutter's superb bike control enabled him to establish a comfortable lead after the first lap, Sykes nonetheless quickly latched onto the back of the Ducati and very nearly wrestled the lead off the Mallory Park winner heading into the final corner hairpin on lap two.
However, while just a cigarette paper separated the Rizla Suzuki from the North West Ducati as Sykes swept through, the canny Rutter would slip back up the inside and ease his rival onto the slippery kerbs and back down into second place.
Undeterred, Sykes was back on the tail of Rutter, shadowing his every move, but there was drama just behind as Sykes' rival for the runner-up spot in the championship, Crutchlow, fell at Carlube. Catching a damp patch as he rounded the crest of the corner, the front went away from him, leaving the two-time winner punching the air in frustration.