Michael Rutter has scored his first British Superbike victory in more than three years after showing outstanding tenacity in tricky conditions at Mallory Park.

A race full of incident and with a regularly changing leaderboard, the only constant proved to be Rutter's ability to master the damp conditions whilst being one of only a handful of riders to opt for slick tyres.

The race was started in slightly controversial circumstances when rain came back to make strategy something of a lottery. An earlier shower had already drenched the circuit once in the day, but while the Supersport race produced a dry line, many opted to play safe with wet weather rubber on at least one of their wheels. The return of the rain though prompted a protest amongst some riders, including Leon Haslam and Shane Byrne, who felt the start should have been delayed.

Nonetheless, the race got underway as normal, albeit with a myriad of different tyre strategies ranging from all-slick rubber for Rutter and Cal Crutchlow, half and half for Byrne and Tom Sykes, and wets all round for Haslam and Billy McConnell.

Treading the first few bends very gingerly, Sykes and Byrne led initially but were quickly swallowed up by Laverty and Rutter, the latter defying his slick rubber to negotiate the first lap confidently.

Indeed, while Rutter's slick-shod rivals tumbled down the order, he remained a comfortable second place behind Laverty, who was romping away up the road in the vain hope of putting enough air between himself and the chasing pack before the circuit began to dry out.

However, Laverty wouldn't be given the chance to find out when he lost the front-end of his Relentless Suzuki at Charlie's chicane for the second time today on lap four. His fall left Rutter in a comfortable lead, the North West Ducati rider using his experience to maintain a good speed in difficult, but improving, conditions.

The order behind was changing constantly though as lesser fancied riders that gambled on a full wet weather set-up surged to the front of the field. Led by Leon Haslam, Billy McConnell, Simon Andrews, Aaron Zanotti and Guy Mason all occupied high top ten positions in the early stages.

Andrews, on the Lloyds Jentin Suzuki was particularly enjoying himself, getting as high as second place when his dice with Haslam saw him make a move up the inside of Charlie's that forced the HM Plant Honda rider to take to the escape road.

However, with the warm summer sun soon returning again and a dry line rapidly appearing, the pendulum was swinging back to the intermediate and slick-shod riders.

Byrne, competing with one intermediate tyre and one slick tyre, had spent much of the race on the fringes of the top positions but quickly began capitalising on the improving conditions to pass both Andrews and Haslam on lap 12 to move up to second place.

With six seconds to make up on Rutter and 18 laps to do so, Byrne was certainly well within his capabilities to track down his fellow Ducati rider. However, even the championship leader was starting to struggle as the race progressed and, after making a brief bid for victory mid-way through the race, began to settle for second.

However, Crutchlow was having other ideas. The HM Plant Honda rider was amongst those to risk a slick strategy, but despite falling outside the top ten in the early stages, was making up substantial amount of ground later on, passing several bikes before coming up against Byrne. Romping up the inside at the hairpin, Crutchlow was unable to stop sufficiently on tarmac that was still damp off-line, prompting him to pass but run wide.

Despite his efforts around the final lap, Crutchlow could not find a way past Byrne, but was still satisfied to finish up with a second third place finish of the day.

Neither rider could do anything about Rutter though, who celebrated his first race win since Oulton Park in May 2005 by throwing his boots into the crowd on the cool down lap. The win was all the sweeter given Rutter is from the village of Kirkby Mallory that surrounds the circuit.

Unsurprisingly, the final results favoured those who started with slick tyres, with the order mirroring which riders were most confident in the early stages. As such, Tom Sykes and Karl Harris battled their way up the order in tandem for fourth and fifth, ahead of Haslam, who battled to sixth on his tired Honda.

Andrews was another to maintain enough momentum for his best result of the season in seventh, ahead of Leon Camier, whose eighth place finish was scant reward at the end of a difficult weekend. Tristan Palmer and Scott Smart rounded out the top ten.

The BSB circus now heads further north to the Oulton Park circuit for the seventh round of the championship, but with Shane Byrne now 97 points ahead of Cal Crutchlow, the title battle is quickly becoming something of a foregone conclusion...