Jon Kirkham has opened his 2012 MCE British Superbike campaign in formidable fashion after capitalising on Alastair Seeley's last corner error to snatch victory at a slippery Brands Hatch.
The Samsung Honda rider held his nerve in an incredibly tentative 2012 season opener, which was defined by the wet and slippery conditions that eliminated several of the front runners and rewarded those most confident with their bike set-up.
Despite the treacherous conditions, Kirkham, who started second, established his intentions very early on as he went on the attack of initial race leader Shane Byrne, the Rapid Solictors Kawasaki rider holding station during a safety car period called to clear the opening lap wreckage of Florian Marino's Aprilia and Graeme Gowland's Honda at Paddock Hill Bend, as well as Michael Laverty's Honda and Patric Muff's BMW at Graham Hill Bend.
With the race back underway on lap five, Kirkham dipped beneath Byrne to assume the lead of the race for the first time on the sixth revolution, while reputed wet weather specialist Michael Rutter swiftly proceeded to make his own path past his Kawasaki counterpart on lap seven.
Behind them, Seeley had jostled his way from 13th on the grid to be fourth by lap ten, his progress aided by Tristan Palmer's fall on lap ten, the GBmoto rider crashing out of the position at Graham Hill Bend. Meanwhile, Seeley's Tyco Suzuki team-mate – and pole sitter – Josh Brookes held down fifth having chosen to adopt a fairly cautious approach in the early stages.
As a handful of riders began to regain their confidence on the slippery surface, Luca Scassa and Dan Linfoot found themselves making fine progress up the order, the latter up to an excellent seventh from 24th on the grid.
However, both riders would see their luck come to an end on lap twelve and fourteen respectively, with Linfoot's accident prompting the return of the safety car.
Bunching up the field as the race reached the half-way point, Kirkham continued to lead from Rutter, while Seeley and Brookes had managed to work their way past Byrne. Behind them, Ian Lowry, Tommy Bridewell, James Westmoreland, Freddy Foray and Noriyuki Haga completed the provisional top ten, the ex-WSBK star recovering from a horrendous getaway that saw him drop from sixth to 13th at the start.
With the race restarted on lap 19, Seeley proved to be the man on the move as he immediately slipped past Rutter for second on lap 20 and set about trying to relieve Kirkham of the lead.