Tommy Hill has won the first race of the 2010 MCE British Superbike Championship at Brands Hatch after capitalising on a slight error by long-time leader Ryuichi Kiyonari and clinging on to the chequered flag.
The Worx Crescent Suzuki rider had followed Kiyonari in formation for much of the race, the Japanese rider rebuffing Hill's efforts for some 22 laps only for a minor mistake out of Graham Hill Bend to allow his rival to pounce.
Kiyonari and Hill were never challenged out front after getting away well at the lights, the pair putting air between themselves and the chasing pack within just a couple of laps.
Elsewhere, the huge 34-strong field – minus Neil Hodgson after he was forced to withdraw as a consequence of his warm-up crash - dived into Paddock Hill Bend for the first time without incident, although Simon Andrews caused some hearts to flutter on lap two when he careened off at the same bend, the Kawasaki rider lucky not to be thrown from his bike.
Behind the leaders, Stuart Easton was once again superb off the line as he moved into third, ahead of Tommy Bridewell, Josh Brookes and Michael Rutter, the Ducati man up from 11th on the grid. Going in the other direction, front row sitters Alastair Seeley and Dan Linfoot slipped to seventh and 12th respectively.
From here, Kiyonari and Hill pushed on, the Briton stalking his rival's every move but being unable to find a way past.
Eventually it would take an error by Kiyonari on the exit of Graham Hill Bend to give Hill the chance he needed to pass, the HM Plant Honda getting slightly out of shape and allowing Hill through on the run up to Clearways.
With clear air in front of him, Hill proceeded to pull away from Kiyonari, although his progress was persistently hampered by a series of backmarkers. Luckily for him, Kiyonari was finding it just as difficult to negotiate the tail-enders and as such couldn't get close enough to launch a late offensive.
Victory for Hill marks only his second at BSB level, the first occurring some five years ago at Cadwell Park. The win is also the first for Suzuki since Sylvain Guintoli triumphed in the 2009 season opener twelve months ago.
While there was little to separate Kiyonari and Hill up front, it was the battle for third that provided the race its top entertainment, with several riders disputing the podium position from start-to-finish.