Brit Neil Hodgson took a hard fought first race of the day in the World Superbike championship at Silverstone today in a race that saw action at every turn.

Hodgson maintained his starting place at the head of the field briefly in the first lap but it was wildcard rider and British Superbike favourite Yukio Kagayama who was the man on the move and soon to the head of the field.

The emphasis for Kagayama was certainly on the 'wild' in wildcard as the Japanese rider pushed hard in the early stages. Spaniard Gregorio Lavilla decided he wanted some of the action too and courtesy of a fastest lap on lap two was right up with, and then past, Hodgson for second place. Lavilla and the big Suzuki then set about the similarly mounted Kagayama, taking the Japanese rider into Stowe on lap three. Hodgson looking on decided that this was actually a rather good idea, and he too took the Japanese Wildman, and then began to plan his attack on Lavilla.

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Further back, by the time they crossed the start/finish line to signify the end of lap four, the top ten on track lined up Lavilla, Hodgson, Kagayama, Reynolds, Walker, Toseland, Laconi, Xaus, Rutter and Chili.
By lap five Hodgson was back into the lead, but only briefly as Lavilla powered past the Englishman going through Bridge, a place the Suzuki looked very strong.

Hodgson continued his battle to find a way past Lavilla, the Ducati looking very strong and trying from Copse to Maggots to make a move. Not having quite enough power to make it past, the failed move allowed Kagayama, for the Japanese rider had in no way fallen back from the battle, just enough of a chance to get through later on the lap, on the inside at Bridge.

By lap nine the top group was separated by some 2.6 seconds, but that covered some ten riders from Lavilla down to Chili. On this lap Hodgson made another bid for the lead, passing first Kagayama and then Lavilla to take the lead into Maggots. No rest for the wicked however, as Lavilla took the place back, then Hodgson took it back before making a mistake allowing Lavilla into the lead and Xaus into second place. Xaus?! It seems the normally crash-prone Spaniard was actually having a measured race and had been working his way through the field.

"I think the wildcards were not so ready to go the race distances," the Spaniard explained afterwards. "I took it easy and was calm, then I was just passing, passing, passing for the lead." And the lead he gained on lap eleven. Lavilla was unhappy at this and was soon back in the place he regarded as rightfully his. Xaus, however, is not a man to back down from a fight, and sure enough retook the place the following lap.

What of Hodgson at this point? Well, the Englishman seemed to have got a little flustered and a few mistakes from him in third place meant that he had come into the clutches of Regis Laconi. This didn't last long however, and Hodgson soon knocked himself back into shape and back past both Lavilla and Xaus and into the lead.

The front pack had shuffled again! Hodgson led Toseland who led Lavilla, who led Xaus. Five laps to go and the action didn't look like abating. Kagayama was just off this battle, still under a second behind it, but around this mark he was off the track too, sailing serenely over grass, gravel and grass before returning to the track.

Kagayama wasn't the only one to go off. Gregorio Lavilla, after such a good race, just outbraked himself and lost the front end coming into the new chicane. For the final three laps the battle was to be Hodgson, Toseland and Xaus which each pushing to the maximum for victory. In the last chicane contact was made between Toseland and Xaus, but not enough to affect standings, the trio crossed the line Hodgson, Toseland, Xaus to rapturous applause from the Silverstone crowds.

For James Toseland coming so close to the win was fortunate after a poor start from the HM Plant Ducati rider. "I don't know what happened at the start, I just got too eager, I just dropped the clutch totally and it was just another Brands Hatch situation," Toseland said afterwards. "But I knew I could settle into the groove and I settle down and they weren't getting away from me, I had a good setting and the tyres worked really well, and we had plenty of time to get past to the front which we did.

"There were places on the circuit where I was quicker and there were parts Neil was quicker," Toseland said of his battle with Neil Hodgson at the end of the race. "The last part of the circuit I was quicker than him other than that it was very even, it's always difficult on that last chicane, he covered his line, I tried in the last chicane but I got a clip from someone which upset the bike a little bit but it was close racing and I'm, pleased to be on the podium."

For winner Neil Hodgson it was quite some day at the office. "It was an incredible race, I've got to say Lavilla and Kagayama - Kagayama, some of those lines! At one point I thought he was going to hit Lavilla, like big time - it would have been a bad accident, Lavilla was coming into the corner and Kagayama was just going straight, they just missed each other! And I was on the outside, I just held my breath and closed my eyes, luckily they didn't collide.

"I knew that Kagayama was going to be off the road eventually, some of the lines he was doing you just can't do lap after lap, eventually you push your luck and off you go."

As for the battle for the lead? "I never saw James once in the race, then I came over the line and he's finished second. I saw everybody else but not James!"

Race two to come, it's going to have to be pretty special to top the first.