Pole-sitter Tommy Hill was made to work far harder for victory in a thrilling opening Thruxton dogfight than his margin of supremacy in qualifying might have led to believe - but thanks to a superbly-timed penultimate lap pass, it was indeed the championship leader atop the rostrum come the end of the race.

The Worx Crescent Suzuki star had to battle his way to glory - his second triumph from three races thus far in the 2010 MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship campaign - after becoming embroiled in a four-way scrap for the honours around the fearsomely-fast Hampshire circuit.

At lights-out, it was Stuart Easton from third on the grid who got the hole-shot into the first corner aboard his Swan Honda machine, leading from a racy-looking Hill, the second Worx Crescent Suzuki of Yukio Kagayama, John Laverty, slow-starting front row-sitter Michael Rutter, Alastair Seeley and Josh Brookes.

Kagayama was the first man on the move, edging his team-mate out of second place on the brakes into Club Chicane at the end of lap three, as further back Seeley similarly fought his way past the hitherto recovering Rutter into fifth at Cobb.

Dan Linfoot became an early casualty when he crashed out of eighth at Goodwood - the same corner that had resulted in James Ellison's broken femur the previous day - whilst Howie Mainwaring lost control of his MSS Colchester Kawasaki and joined the retirement ranks on lap seven.

Back at the front of the field, a feisty Brookes eased past Rutter into Club Chicane for P4 eight laps in - and rapidly set his sights on Hill. As the Australian homed in on his prey, Kagayama too was clearly feeling in the mood to make a break, and snatched the advantage away from long-time Easton into Goodwood, marking the first time in more than six years that the Japanese BSB returnee had led a race in the championship.

Unable to get away, however, the 35-year-old soon found himself having to contend with the charging Brookes, who had deposed both Hill and Easton in short measure into the Complex and at Campbell respectively, with the former rider going on to get the better of the latter shortly afterwards into the bargain.

At Noble on lap 15 there was a change for the lead as Brookes similarly found a way past a determined Kagayama with a brave attack at Goodwood, leaving his pursuer to focus his attentions on fighting off an attack from his Worx Crescent Suzuki team-mate, with some energetic and entertaining place-swapping between the pair culminating in Hill emerging ahead courtesy of a neat move into Club Chicane on lap 18 when the Yokohama native out-braked himself.

Just one lap later, and the points leader similarly dived past Brookes at the same spot, timing his move to absolute perfection and then going on to eke out just enough of a margin over the final lap to take the chequered flag in front.

"That race was non-stop every lap and it was a real fight out there," acknowledged Hill, speaking to the official BSB website. "Towards the end everyone was all over the place! I was comfortable in the middle of the race, but then Josh came past and I have to say I wasn't expecting it as I thought I had braked late! It is good for everyone and I want to thank the Worx Crescent Suzuki team - let's see if we can make it the double in race two."

Brookes achieved his first podium finish of the season to-date with the runner-up position, just under a second adrift, with Kagayama fending off Easton for his own first rostrum since the penultimate race of 2004.

After shadowing the leaders early on, Rutter ultimately fell away to a solid if distant fifth for Ridersmotorcycles.com on his 38th birthday, with Ducati team-mate Martin Jessopp setting fastest lap on his way up the order from 14th to sixth - and consequently assuring himself of pole position for race two based on the new fastest laps format.

The top ten was completed by John Laverty (Buildbase Kawasaki), Gary Mason (MSS Colchester Kawasaki), Ryuichi Kiyonari (HM Plant Honda) and Michael Laverty (Relentless Suzuki), with Peter Hickman, Seeley and Evo class runners David Anthony, Gary Johnson and Craig Fitzpatrick rounding out the scorers.

The race two grid reads Jessopp from Mason, Brookes and Kagayama on row one, with Kiyonari, Hill, Rutter and Seeley filling out row two and Easton all the way back on row three in P11.

To see the race results in full, click here