Shane Byrne has been crowned the 2008 Bennetts British Superbike Champion after cruising to a comfortable third place finish in the first race of the weekend at Silverstone.

Byrne needed only a top ten finish to ensure the title went his way, but while he made a poor start and dropped as low as ninth at one point, it transpired that he didn't even need to finish to make the title his as the only two riders capable of toppling him, Leon Haslam and Tom Sykes, came down on lap three.

An eventful start to the race, Haslam took the early lead, followed by pole sitting team-mate Cal Crutchlow and Sykes, with James Ellison getting a good start to run fourth from eighth on the grid.

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The drama started early when an ambitious move by Karl Harris on Ellison and Michael Rutter at Abbey proved remarkably close, even if the Yamaha rider proved to be successful in his endeavour.

However, Harris' charge was ended at the start of lap two when he ran wide at Becketts and onto the grass. He would drop outside the top 15 in the process.

Up at the front, the top three were beginning to pull away from Michael Laverty, who was up to fourth, when Sykes committed the deed that would later get him disqualified. Rounding Brooklands to come into the chicane at the end of lap three, Sykes dived up the inside of Crutchlow and Haslam, but ran out of room.

Swiping Haslam as he dipped into the corner, both riders slid off the circuit and out of contention, all but handing the title to Byrne.

The corner would be the scene of more incident just a single lap later when third place James Ellison lost control of the Hydrex Honda on the run up to the bend, sliding off and clipping Laverty's Relentless Suzuki with his foot. Unlike Haslam and Sykes, Ellison and Laverty would stay down.

With four riders all but down and out, Crutchlow was now in a comfortable lead, from Camier and, crucially, Byrne, the Airwaves Ducati riders benefiting from their tardy starts to emerge second and third. Rutter followed in fourth, ahead of Scott Smart and Gary Mason, the Cup rider having a great ride.

Despite his decent margin, it was apparent Crutchlow didn't have the front running pace, allowing Camier to catch relatively quickly and simply slip up the inside at Priory on the first time of asking on lap nine.

Crutchlow tried to give chase, but Camier would not be challenged again as he crossed the line for his third victory of the season by a just over a second. The win adds to his triumphs at Snetterton and Croft.

More importantly was the rider in third as Byrne came over the line 'wheelie and all' to celebrate a second British Superbike Championship, five years after his last title win. It also marks a fourth victory for the GSE Racing team and their first since 2005.

Rutter came home a very distant fourth after struggling to maintain the pace of his front row qualifying position, while Simon Andrews was a fine fifth after benefiting from the retirements to climb from 13th on the grid.

Smart had held that strong fifth for nearly the whole race when he came down at Priory, while the beneficiary from that problem, Harris, who had battled his way up the order valiantly, was also forced to retire close to the finish with a mechanical problem.

It meant Mason scored the best result for a Cup rider this season in sixth place, a marvellous performance for the Quay Garage Honda rider, not least because he held off fellow Honda riders Tristan Palmer and Jason O'Halloran in the process.

Stuart Easton saved some face for Kawasaki in ninth, while Atsushi Watanabe sneaked into the top ten.

Haslam, meanwhile, did his best to recover from his earlier fall to finish in a fine 12th, just ahead of Sykes in 13th. However, Sykes was later disqualified for the collision, while he has also been moved back three rows for the second race too [see separate story].

His loss from the results sheet means David Johnson finishes 13th, Chris Burns 14th and Peter Hickman 15th, the Red Viper Honda scoring for just the second time this season.