Sylvain Guintoli has completed victory on his British Superbike Championship debut at Brands Hatch after shrugging off a poor start to win an exciting 2009 season opener.
The Frenchman entered his maiden race on a Superbike as the favourite following a convincing run to pole position in qualifying, but he was made to work hard for victory when he dropped as low as sixth at the start of the race.
Nonetheless, he gradually forged his way into contention, capitalising on errors from his rivals to lead home Honda pair Glen Richards and Stuart Easton.
Starting from his first pole position in, what he claims is, nine years, Guintoli scrambled his Worx Crescent Suzuki off the line slowly, leaving him down in sixth as the bikes tumbled into Paddock Hill Bend for the first time this season.
Instead, it was Easton who emerged out front, the third place starter sweeping into the lead of the race from fellow front row starters Steve Plater and Karl Harris, while Glen Richards and Leon Camier got away well in fourth and fifth.
The first safety car period of the season promptly followed though when Tom Tunstall came off his bike at Clark Curve, his rider-less Hardinge Honda promptly collecting Matt Bond and sending him crashing down. However, despite requiring some medical attention, the MIST Suzuki rider has not suffered any serious injuries.
Racing resumed on lap seven, with Richards immediately planting a move on team-mate Plater to move up to second, the reigning British Supersport champion going on to need just a further lap to dispatch Easton from the lead.
By this point, Guintoli was already up to fourth position having overtaken Camier and Harris on lap eight and was quickly onto the back of the top three. Harris' race, however, would come to a premature end on lap ten when he dropped his Hydrex Honda at Druids, whittling the leading group down to five riders.
Back at the front, this time it as Plater on the move, passing Easton on lap eleven before overtaking Richards for the lead at Druids just a lap later. His moves were being replicated by Guintoli, who was up behind him by lap 13 after demoting both Richards and Easton to third and fourth.