By Mike Nicks
Shane Byrne and the loping power of his Airwaves Ducati 1098R again broke the challenge of British superbike racing's young guns in the first of today's two 20-lap races on the 2.3-mile grand prix circuit.
The rock-hard Cal Crutchlow ignored his dislocated right ankle to grab the lead on his HM Plant Honda from Tom Sykes, who had been hot in practice on his Rizla Suzuki. Byrne was in pole position, but made another of his trademark lukewarm starts this season to finish the first lap in sixth place.
At Oulton Park last week Byrne charged from 13th place to first in one of the races. Could he perform a similar feat here?
Within four laps he was sitting behind Crutchlow and Sykes, comfortably watching their moves. On lap 13 Byrne got Sykes, and soon after he eased inside Crutchlow on the Surtees right-hander to take the lead. The move sent Crutchlow wide, and Sykes moved into second.
Byrne won his fourth race of the year by 1.907 seconds from Sykes, with Crutchlow 3.1 seconds behind the leader.
"Once I got into third place it was going to be alright," Byrne said. "Tom made a bit of a mistake and I got past. Then I nearly ran off the track, but they gave me a bike that was good for the whole race."
Crutchlow said: "Leading for 16 laps was hard when you've got a dislocated ankle. Now I'm going straight to the ice bucket to get the swelling down."
Sykes, who scored his first podium of the year, said: "It's fantastic to finally pay the team back with a podium. Now it's about trying to get my championship back on track."
Leon Haslam's difficult season continues. He started badly in ninth place, rode strongly, but could only climb to fourth position on his HM Plant Honda, ahead of Leon Camier (Airwaves Ducati).
The result saw Crutchlow jump back to second place in the championship, with 71 points to Byrne's 120. Camier holds third place with 67 points, and former MotoGP rider James Ellison, who finished sixth in the race, now holds fourth place in the table on the Hydrex Bike Animal Honda.