5 May 2008
Byrne holds on for opening race honours.
Shane Byrne held off the challenge of Leon Haslam to secure victory in the opening race for the Bennetts British Superbike Championship at Oulton Park after Cal Crutchlow threw away his chance of a second consecutive win in 2008.
In tricky conditions at the Cheshire venue, Byrne prevailed by less than half a second after 18 laps of hard racing to pick up his second victory of the season having also won the opening race last time out at Thruxton.
With light rain falling as the race got underway, it was little surprise to see an incident at Old Hall on lap one, and with a number of riders going down the red flag was thrown and the field returned to the pits – where the riders were able to switch to a wet set-up as conditions worsened.
When the field took the start for the second time, it was Leon Haslam who took the lead into Old Hall but not for long as he then lost out to Rizla's Tom Sykes heading down towards Cascades. Haslam also lost out to Cal Crutchlow before lap one was complete as the poleman found a way past into Hizzies to take second, with Haslam down to third from Byrne, Leon Camier and Karl Harris.
Haslam was soon under attack from Byrne and having looked down the inside into Old Hall at the start of lap two, the Airwaves man then took the place after diving down the inside into Shell Oils. Seemingly struggling in the early stages, Haslam then found Camier closing quickly onto the rear of his HM Plant Honda.
Out front, Crutchlow was with Sykes in the fight for the lead and took the place going into Lodge. However, having gone down the inside, Crutchlow saw the back end of the bike kick out which enabled Sykes to come back at him up Deer Leap and retake the lead as they crossed the line.
Crutchlow looked again for the lead at Shell Oils on lap three and again at Lodge as he attempted to take the lead, but behind them, Byrne was starting to close in in third. Haslam was still fourth ahead of Camier, but Michael Rutter was now up into the top six with Harris having fallen coming through Druids and been forced into retirement. Debutant Tom Grant, Scott Smart, Stuart Easton and Guy Martin completed the top ten.
On lap four, Crutchlow finally made a move for the lead stick into Old Hall to demote Sykes down to second, while Haslam lost out on fourth to Camier as Airwaves man finally managed to find a way through.
Byrne was quickly putting Sykes under pressure for second place and by lap seven, he was in a position to launch a move for second, getting a better run up Clay Hill to take the position and set off in pursuit of Crutchlow. Further down the top ten, Michael Laverty was a man on the move on the Relentless Suzuki and was lapping quicker than those around him and had climbed into the top eight.
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