Michael Laverty has firmed his place in the 2011 MCE British Superbike Championship title shootout with a second victory of the season at Cadwell Park.
The Ulsterman snatched the lead at the opening bend from pole sitter Tommy Hill before resisting the attentions of his Swan Yamaha team-mate throughout, Laverty benefitting from the race being stopped with five laps to go due to drizzle that began falling mid-race.
Prior to that, the pair had been in magnificent form, Laverty and Hill pulling a huge gap over their rivals without ever being separated by more than half a second, the latter applying particular pressure through the twisty final sector of the lap, but never able to do anything more than shadow his rival.
However, just as Hill was primed to attack Laverty for the win, the red flag was dropped due to rain that had begun falling with a handful of laps remaining. Though the drizzle would stop shortly afterwards, enough laps had been completed Laverty to be declared race winner.
A second win of the season, the full 25 points are enough to give him a sufficient gap over his rivals in the fight for the remaining three spots in the title shootout, Laverty becoming the fourth confirmed rider.
Behind Hill, who was somewhat aggrieved at the decision to stop the race, was initially Josh Brookes, who got his moment on the podium, only to have the result taken away due to a controversial collision with Michael Rutter.
The pair had been disputing third position, with Rutter having nudged ahead of Brookes early on, but having had his efforts over Mountain and into Hall Bends persistently rebuffed, the Australian dived down the inside on lap six. Seemingly unaware that Brookes was present, Rutter turned in and bounced off the side of the Suzuki, sending him across the damp grass at the Esses.
Forced to lay the Ducati down, Rutter skated back across the track and was lucky not to be collected by the following pack. A massive blow to his title showdown hopes having moved to within five points of Ryuichi Kiyonari, Rutter sustained rib injuries in the accident.
After deliberation, Brookes was later disqualified from the results, meaning he has also seen his position in the top six shootout come under pressure.
Rutter's crash would break up the group with Byrne coming home a comfortable fourth - later updated to third -, ahead of Jon Kirkham and Kiyonari, who put in a potentially crucial charge from 15th on the grid to claim fifth. Gary Mason was sixth, though his chances of making the shootout appear slim now.
Martin Jessopp, Peter Hickman, Glen Richards and Chris Walker made up the top ten, while Graeme Gowland, Alex Lowes, James Ellison, Scott Smart and Karl Harris rounded out the points'.