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Shane Byrne has begun the quest for a record-breaking fourth MCE British Superbike Championship title in formidable style by claiming victory in the opening race of the 2013 season at Brands Hatch.
The reigning champion faced competition from both Alex Lowes and Josh Brookes over the course of a dry 30 lap race, but would eventually come away as a fairly comfortable winner ahead of his anticipated title rivals.
Getting away well from pole position, Byrne headed Lowes, Brookes and a feisty Dan Linfoot during the opening revolutions, the GBmoto Honda rider getting a mighty start from tenth on the grid to run with the leaders initially.
However, there was less fortune for front row sitter James Ellison, who was wheeled off the grid before the warm-up lap due to a broken visor. Though he went on to to re-join the field in third, Ellison failed to adhere to regulations that stipulate he must start from the back of the grid, earning himself a ride-through penalty and putting him out of contention.
With Ellison down the order, Byrne held firm for the opening laps before allowing Brookes – now past Lowes – through into the lead to set the pace and string along a five-strong lead pack that also included Keith Farmer on the second of the Rapid Solicitors Kawasakis.
Indeed, the newcomer was certainly making his presence felt amongst the front runners as he battled his way past Linfoot and Lowes to get as high as third at one stage, before the latter reassumed the position on lap twelve.
By this stage Byrne was also beginning to renew his assault on Brookes and duly cruised past into Paddock Hill Bend at the start of lap fifteen, a move that was replicated by Lowes just a lap later.
With the top two beginning to drop a fading Brookes, Lowes stepped up his challenge to Byrne over the second-half of the race but would eventually concede defeat to his rival with five laps remaining and settle for second place.