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Alex Lowes has added more precious podium credits to his tally ahead of the MCE British Superbike Championship 'Title Showdown' by claiming a resounding lights-to-flag win at Donington Park.
Fresh from his double triumph at Cadwell Park, Lowes got the jump on first-time pole sitter James Westmoreland from second on the grid, nosing ahead at Redgate to assume a lead he would maintain all the way to the chequered flag.
Not that the Samsung Honda rider wasn't made to work hard for his third consecutive race win, Lowes never able to put more than a bike length between himself and Shane Byrne for the entire 20 lap exchange.
However, while Byrne – who didn't race at Donington Park last season because of injury – appeared to be sizing up his rival to make a late pass, he would ultimately settle for second position to ensure he heads into the Title Showdown with the best starting point having accumulated more podium credits than any other rider during the first phase of the season.
Firming his place in the Title Showdown, James Ellison was also in close company in the fight for the win, but after shaking off the attentions of Josh Brookes early on, he wasn't able to get haul his Milwaukee Yamaha higher than what remained a very closely contested third. Brookes, meanwhile, would go on to endure an unusually lacklustre race as last year's Donington double winner faded to a lonely fourth.
With Ellison confirming his place in the Title Showdown by finishing third, two spots remain up for grabs in the crucial second race at Donington Park, with just three riders now in contention.
One of those positions remains likely to go to Ryuichi Kiyonari, even if the Japanese rider could only manage three points for 13th having run as low as 18th at one stage. With just 25 points up for grabs, former champion Kiyonari needs just one point from race two to make it into the Showdown.
As such, the contest for the sixth and final spot comes down to Buildbase BMW pair Jon Kirkham and Westmoreland. Indeed, Westmoreland stood to make good gains over his team-mate after qualifying on pole position, but a horrendous start and first bend saw him slip as low as tenth initially.
A determined fight-back would see Westmoreland haul himself up to fifth position, though his hopes of making in-roads into the erstwhile five point margin between himself and Kirkham was hampered by the latter finishing in sixth himself, albeit a long way behind.
It means the two head into the race two decider split by just four points, though Westmoreland at least has a chance to make amends after his impressive charge earned him the fastest lap and with it another pole position. Kirkham will start on row three in seventh place.
Elsewhere, Tommy Bridewell's hopes of a late charge into the Title Showdown were scuppered by an engine problem that forced him out whilst running in fifth position, while seventh wasn't enough to keep Chris Walker in contention either.
His equal-best result of the season, Jakub Smrz held off PJ Jacobsen to finish in eighth position, while Barry Burrell picked up a strong top ten finish on the Quattro Plant Kawasaki.
Peter Hickman recovered from his qualifying crash to finish in 11th, while Josh Waters maintained 12th despite an off-track moment. Making late gains after struggling early on, Kiyonari finished 13th, ahead of Michael Rutter and Dan Linfoot.