Composed Laverty cruises to Thruxton victory
30 May 2011
Michael Laverty has hauled himself back into title contention with a third career British Superbike Championship victory at Thruxton, his first for Swan Yamaha.
The Northern Irishman was peerless in the tricky weather conditions around the high-speed Hampshire circuit, Laverty climbing his way up the order from seventh on the grid to snatch a lead he wouldn't lose at the mid-way point in the race.
A measure of the quality in BSB this year, not a single rider crashed during the 15 lap race, which was delayed when the heaven's opened minutes before the start of the race. With a wet race being declared, a lottery on tyre choices would see the majority of the field apply full wet rubber, while Tommy Hill, James Westmoreland and Loris Baz would risk it on intermediate tyres.
Off the start, maiden pole sitter Alex Lowes bogged down, allowing John Hopkins and then Michael Rutter into the lead, though it was a charging Peter Hickman that would complete the opening lap out front after an excellent move at Club.
Hickman held the position until lap four when Hopkins swept through at Club, only for the plucky Tyco Honda rider to snatch the position back on lap five.
Lowes, meanwhile, was working his way back into contention, passing Hopkins for second on lap six, before moving into the lead ahead of Hickman just a few corners later.
Simultaneously, Laverty was now up to third place at the expense of Hopkins, the American enduring something of a mid-race lull at this stage. Third became second on lap seven when Laverty passed Hickman, the Swan Yamaha rider going on to pass Lowes for the lead at the start of lap eight as he displayed superior levels of grip through turn one.
Indeed, having fought his way to the front, Lowes began to slip down the order rather swiftly, dropping to seventh by the end of the tenth lap.
With Laverty seemingly comfortable out front, the battle for second, occupied by Hickman with five laps remaining, attracted much of the attention, though he was now under pressure from fellow privateer Honda rider Dan Linfoot, Rutter, Hopkins and, remarkably, Shane Byrne, the former champion up into the top five having started last following his qualifying crash.
Indeed, Byrne was now the threat and as both Hickman and Linfoot's tyres began to fade, the former champion pushed his way into third before grabbing second off Rutter heading into the final lap of the race.
Rutter fought back, passing again at Church, only for Byrne to slipstream through again on the run to the final corner Club chicane. However, Rutter coolly pulled off a fine outside move on the tricky corner to get the better of his fellow BSB veteran and snatch second place, his first podium of the year.
Laverty, meanwhile, was already across the line, the Swan Yamaha rider going a long way to make up for his failure to score in either race last time out at Croft. The result also catapults him up to sixth in the standings.
Behind Rutter and Byrne, Hopkins settled for fourth, ahead of Hickman who despite scoring his best-ever BSB finish in fifth, will be aggrieved to have just missed out on the podium. The same can be said for Linfoot, who finished just three seconds off the lead in sixth.
Lowes would end up a distant seventh following a difficult, but promising, wet race initiation on the ZX-10R, the youngster at least getting the better of fellow Kawasaki rider Chris Walker, who took his best finish of the season in eighth.
Josh Brookes and Ryuichi Kiyonari endured quiet races in ninth and tenth, ahead of Steve Brogan on the Jentin Honda and Martin Jessopp on the second of the Rapid Bathams Ducatis.
In the EVO class, Buildbase BMW's Barry Burrell scored the first non-WFR Honda victory of the season, while he also had the honour of finishing ahead of his championship class team-mates in 13th. Glen Richards and Patric Muff rounded out the overall points for second and third in class.
Elsewhere, Hill, Baz and Westmoreland were punished for their risky tyre choices, the trio finishing a lap down on the leaders.
Byrne, meanwhile, will start from the head of the grid for race two after claiming the fastest lap of race one, the HM Plant Honda rider joined on the front row by Rutter, Hopkins and Laverty. Lowes will start in tenth.