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Byrne five alive in Donington opener

26 May 2008

Shane Byrne has extended his lead in the Bennetts British Superbike Championship to 59 points after a comfortable victory in the seventh race of the season at Donington Park.

Making the most of his pole position, although he shared the lead with James Ellison and Cal Crutchlow over the course of the 20 lap race, it was only ever the Airwaves Ducati rider that maintained a consistent pace to finish 2.4secs up on Leon Haslam.

With the rain holding off but the circuit battered by high-speed winds, Byrne was the last of the late brakers into Redgate at the getaway, edging out the fast starting but more cautious Ellison.

Nonetheless, the Hydrex Bike Animal Honda rider fought back at the bottom of the Craner Curves getting a run on Byrne up to McLeans and slipping into the lead. However, while Ellison attempted to pull out a gap on the feuding masses behind him, a rather leery slide into Melbourne Hairpin would see Byrne slip back up the inside on lap three.

Even worse, Ellison found himself behind Crutchlow and Karl Harris before the lap was out and was stuck trying to keep Tom Sykes behind him, the Suzuki rider having made excellent progress from 13th on the grid in the early laps.

Up at the front, Brands Hatch winner Crutchlow latched onto the back of Byrne and made his move at McLeans on lap six to take the lead, but was demoted straight back to second again when the championship leader retaliated four corners later at Melbourne.

With Byrne back in charge, Crutchlow slotted into second, ahead of Harris – up from tenth on the grid – Ellison, Sykes and the Suzuki rider's sparring partner, Haslam.

With the top six having pulled away, it took a safety car period to bunch them back together again when Luke Quigley's PDM Suzuki rather spectacularly caught fire underneath him out of the Fogarty Chicane.

On the restart, Byrne got away cleanly but he was now being tailed by Harris, who caught Crutchlow unawares into Redgate to move into second place. Elsewhere, there was additional movement with Leon Camier passing Haslam, only for the HM Plant Honda rider to get him back almost straight away.

Sykes was also on the move, passing Ellison on lap 12 and following it up almost immediately with a pass on Crutchlow for third.

Indeed, Crutchlow was beginning to fall backwards, just as Haslam – now past Ellison too - was starting to make his presence felt at the front, the two team-mates swapping positions for fourth and fifth on lap 12.

All the dicing behind was just what Byrne needed to stretch his legs, the Ducati rider setting a series of fastest laps to eke his lead out to Harris, who by this point was being harassed by Haslam, his charge having seen pass Sykes on lap 16. Haslam made his move stick at Melbourne, with Sykes also finding his way through just a lap later as Harris began to struggle with an ill-handling bike.

Despite setting off in chase of Byrne, it was too late for Haslam to prevent 'Shakey's' fifth victory in seven races.

Haslam will be a satisfied second after making impressive progress up the order over the course of the race, while Sykes will be equally happy with third after his problems in qualifying.

Fourth place fell to Ellison, who made the most of Harris' ailing Yamaha to pass at Fogarty on the last lap, while Camier and Crutchlow were also able to find a way past when Harris made an error at Melbourne. Despite crossing the line seventh – having lost five places in four laps -, Harris will at least be relieved to finally get on the score sheet.

Michael Rutter made a strong start but would eventually slip to eighth, just ahead of Michael Laverty, who had to battle his way up the order after starting from the pit lane. Simon Andrews rounded out the top ten.

Meanwhile, in the Daily Star Cup, John Laverty extends his advantage after finishing as the lead rider in 16th place overall. There was heartbreak for STP MV Agusta's Chris Burns though, who ran on the cusp of the overall top ten for the majority of the race before retiring on lap 14.


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