1 October 2006
Haslam's battle, Kiyo's war.
Second place in race two was all that was required for Ryuichi Kiyonari to lift the 2006 British Superbike crown, as Leon Haslam's best was ultimately not quite enough.
With an 18 point deficit heading into the race, Haslam always knew he would be up against it, especially after Kiyo was given the added boost by being moved onto the front row of the grid alongside his championship rival following 'Shakey' Byrne's failure to start.
With a huge hailstorm shortly before the off, the mounting tension around the GP circuit was palpable. As in race one Haslam failed to make the most of his pole position advantage, allowing Johnny Rea to get the jump before a feisty-looking Kiyo dived audaciously down the inside of the pair of them into Druids for the first time to prise the lead away.
Haslam recovered from his jittery start to reclaim second, but already his title chances were looking slim, with Rea third ahead of Karl Harris, Tommy Hill, a slow-starting Michael Rutter and Gregorio Lavilla.
Haslam soon reeled his HM Plant Honda rival back in, and had a look through Clearways only to think better of it. Already Lavilla's bid for glory was over though, the Spaniard pulling off on the opening lap with mechanical woes, a massive disappointment having headed into the weekend leading the championship.
The top two, meanwhile, were continuing to go at it hammer-and-tongs at the front, with Harris past Rea for third and no doubt keen to protect the back of his title-chasing team-mate up ahead. A momentary twitch from the race leader on lap five was all that was necessary for Haslam to sweep through, and with that he was gone. Kiyo, though, knew all he had to do was finish second and the crown would be his, especially with Harris – although closing – extremely unlikely to challenge behind.
Within two laps Haslam had eked out a 1.6s advantage, and two laps later that lead had more than doubled, with Kiyo beginning to look increasingly ragged and being shadowed by his team-mate almost a second in arrears, Rea fourth, Hill fifth and an impressive Michael Laverty sixth from 16th on the grid.
With Haslam streaking away out front and Kiyo just nursing it home, Harris' rear gunner role was bringing him under attack from Rea who, if the rumours are to be believed, is also strongly tipped to steal the Yorkshireman's seat next year. Within a lap the Irishman was through, though any attack on future team-mate Kiyonari would be checked by the third red flag of the day following an accident involving sixth-placed Hill at the bottom of Graham Hill Bend.
Happily the Virgin Mobile Yamaha ace escaped with only a broken rib and split tongue, leaving second-placed Kiyonari to celebrate after sealing the highly-coveted British Superbike title at the third time of asking by the slimmest advantage of just eight points.
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