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Shane Byrne needs just a 14th place finish from the final race of the 2012 MCE British Superbike Championship to secure a third career title after wrapping up his second win of the Brands Hatch weekend ahead of Josh Brookes.
Commanding an 18 point lead over Brookes with just two races remaining, Byrne came into the race knowing a win would be enough to secure the championship if his rival finished any lower than second position.
However, while Byrne did his utmost to put the title out of his rivals' reach by leading from start-to-finish, Brookes's late charge into second place was enough to keep his slim title hopes alive into the final race of the year.
Nonetheless, Byrne will still enter the finale with 23 points in hand over Brookes, the Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki rider requiring a mere 14th place finish to ensure he comes away with the 2012 title.
Indeed, it was a fairly untroubled ride to victory for Byrne as he got the jump off the line to beat Alex Lowes into Paddock Hill Bend, the local rider aided further when team-mate Stuart Easton slotted into second place ahead of the chasing pack.
However, when Easton swiftly slipped behind Lowes, Michael Laverty and Josh Brookes, Byrne's early lead was negated by a safety car period to clear Tristan Palmer's wrecked GBmoto Honda at Paddock Hill Bend.
Nonetheless, Byrne got away well from the restart and steadily began to extend his lead over the opposition, while Brookes found himself heading in the opposite direction when he was overtaken for fourth place by the inspired Barry Burrell.
Following his impressive run to sixth place in the first race of the weekend – his best at BSB level -, Burrell looked destined to go even better as he not only battled past Brookes, but also scythed his way past Laverty and then Lowes into second place.
Promptly setting the fastest lap of the race, Burrell went off in search of leader Byrne to quickly get onto his tail and though he was never close enough to attempt a pass at the lead, the pair had established a gap over the chasers.
Realising a third place finish behind race winner Byrne wouldn't be enough to keep his title hopes alive, Brookes began making headway, overtaking Laverty on lap ten and then muscling his way past Lowes for third on lap 12. Making slight contact, Lowes appeared to suffer with a technical issue shortly afterwards as he retired to the pit lane.
With clear air in front of him, Brookes quickly set about chasing down the leaders, an objective that was achieved for him when the safety car was called out again to clear the WFR Honda of James Westmoreland, who had crashed heavily at Clearways.
With three laps added onto the race distance, Byrne got away cleanly again at the restart, but Brookes's renewed pressure on Burrell would eventually prevail on lap 21 when he squeezed up the inside at Druids.
A critical pass, though Brookes didn't have enough in reserve to prevent Byrne from notching up his second win of the weekend, it at least gives him a fighting chance of overturning a sizeable deficit in the third and final outing.
Somewhat cruelly, Burrell would just miss out on his and BMW's first BSB podium when he was overtaken by Laverty with just over a lap to go, even if fourth place remains his best-ever result at this level.
Somewhat overshadowed by the action ahead, Tommy Bridewell made good gains in the race to finish in fifth place, ahead of outgoing champion Tommy Hill – who officially cannot defend his title now -, Easton, Jon Kirkham, Noriyuki Haga and Peter Hickman.
Outside the top ten, Jason O'Halloran picked a good result on his Padgetts Honda debut in 11th, ahead of Robbin Harms, John Laverty – his first points of the year -, Jakub Smrz and Luca Scassa.