Billy McConnell has prevailed in an exciting Fuchs-Silkolene British Supersport Championship opener at Brands Hatch after pulling off a last lap move on Dan Linfoot and resisting a charging Steve Plater.
An enjoyable start to the year for McConnell, Plater, Linfoot and Hudson Kennaugh, the four title favourites, the quartet were the class of the field as they crossed the line less than a second apart, but several seconds up on the competition.
Starting from pole position McConnell was beaten off the line by the fast starting Kawasakis of Ben Wilson and Chris Martin, who briefly held 1-2 before the Aussie rider moved back ahead by the end of the lap.
The Gearlink pair would go no further than lap seven though after Martin went off at Druids and Wilson retired with a mechanical problem.
Allowing the top three of McConnell, Kennaugh and Linfoot to break away, with Plater down in fifth behind a defensive Lee Johnston, Linfoot surged from third to first in just two corners on lap three after passing Kennaugh at Clearways and going past McConnell at Paddock Hill Bend.
Although he was keeping Linfoot in close company, McConnell was finding the North West 200 backed rider difficult to overtake, passing him on lap 18, only for Linfoot to sweep back through at Druids.
, however, was allowing Plater – now past Johnston - to quickly close the gap, the HM Plant rider putting the ghosts of his earlier Superbike fall to rest by setting outstanding lap times towards the end of the race and passing Kennaugh on lap 22.
Entering the final lap, McConnell made a second attempt to wrest the lead off Linfoot, this time succeeding at Paddock Hill Bend and causing Linfoot to lose his concentration. Plater quickly pounced, moving past the Yamaha rider with just three corners remaining
However, he wasn't close enough to launch an attack on McConnell, who was able to complete his victory for MAP Raceways Yamaha. Plater was a delighted second, ahead of Linfoot and Kennaugh.
Johnston was a lonely fifth, ahead of James Webb, Craig Fitzpatrick, James Westmoreland, Paul Young and Sam Lowes.