By Mike Nicks
Cal Crutchlow survived the maddest race of the season in the Bennetts British Superbike Championship in the second leg at Brands Hatch today to score his second victory of the season and keep alive his dented title hopes.
The 22-year-old HM Plant Honda rider, riding with a mangled right ankle, was leading on the 19th lap, but on his rear tyre were Tom Sykes, on a super-fast Rizla Suzuki, and championship leader Shane Byrne, waiting to unleash the torque of his Airwaves Ducati.
It looked like the walking-wounded Crutchlow would have to succumb – until Sykes' engine let go at high speed on Hawthorn Straight. The Suzuki went haywire – at one stage Sykes seemed to be riding backwards on its fuel tank as the GSX-R1000 careered along – and bike and rider ended in the dirt.
The race – extended from 20 to 23 laps after an earlier safety car incident – was stopped, and Crutchlow was rewarded for his guts and persistence for fighting through an injury that had left him soaking his dislocated ankle in ice after he finished third in the opening leg.
Byrne finished second, just 0.110 seconds behind, and Leon Camier inherited third place on the second Airwaves Ducati. Michael Laverty (Relentless Suzuki), Michael Rutter (NW200 Ducati) and Leon Haslam (HM Plant Honda) completed the top six.
"We came here with the sole intention of collecting points for the championship," Crutchlow said. "So a first and third is good. We're trying to keep the championship challenge alive. Shakey would have challenged me if the race hadn't been stopped, but luckily we hung on."
"I got another awful start and was down to ninth or something terrible on the first lap," Byrne admitted.
"I got a big faceful of oil as Tom went down," Camier said. "It was frustrating because I was catching the leaders at a pretty good rate."
After six of the 24 races Byrne now leads the series with 140 points, with Crutchlow holding on in second place on 96 points, and Camier on 83.