Shane Byrne held off the challenge of Leon Haslam to secure victory in the opening race for the Bennetts British Superbike Championship at Oulton Park after Cal Crutchlow threw away his chance of a second consecutive win in 2008.

In tricky conditions at the Cheshire venue, Byrne prevailed by less than half a second after 18 laps of hard racing to pick up his second victory of the season having also won the opening race last time out at Thruxton.

With light rain falling as the race got underway, it was little surprise to see an incident at Old Hall on lap one, and with a number of riders going down the red flag was thrown and the field returned to the pits - where the riders were able to switch to a wet set-up as conditions worsened.

When the field took the start for the second time, it was Leon Haslam who took the lead into Old Hall but not for long as he then lost out to Rizla's Tom Sykes heading down towards Cascades. Haslam also lost out to Cal Crutchlow before lap one was complete as the poleman found a way past into Hizzies to take second, with Haslam down to third from Byrne, Leon Camier and Karl Harris.

Haslam was soon under attack from Byrne and having looked down the inside into Old Hall at the start of lap two, the Airwaves man then took the place after diving down the inside into Shell Oils. Seemingly struggling in the early stages, Haslam then found Camier closing quickly onto the rear of his HM Plant Honda.

Out front, Crutchlow was with Sykes in the fight for the lead and took the place going into Lodge. However, having gone down the inside, Crutchlow saw the back end of the bike kick out which enabled Sykes to come back at him up Deer Leap and retake the lead as they crossed the line.

Crutchlow looked again for the lead at Shell Oils on lap three and again at Lodge as he attempted to take the lead, but behind them, Byrne was starting to close in in third. Haslam was still fourth ahead of Camier, but Michael Rutter was now up into the top six with Harris having fallen coming through Druids and been forced into retirement. Debutant Tom Grant, Scott Smart, Stuart Easton and Guy Martin completed the top ten.

On lap four, Crutchlow finally made a move for the lead stick into Old Hall to demote Sykes down to second, while Haslam lost out on fourth to Camier as Airwaves man finally managed to find a way through.

Byrne was quickly putting Sykes under pressure for second place and by lap seven, he was in a position to launch a move for second, getting a better run up Clay Hill to take the position and set off in pursuit of Crutchlow. Further down the top ten, Michael Laverty was a man on the move on the Relentless Suzuki and was lapping quicker than those around him and had climbed into the top eight.

In the Cup Class, Steve Mercer held the lead ahead of Luke Quigley, with Chris Burns having climbed up to third place despite starting from the pitlane.

On lap ten, Sykes found himself under pressure from Camier who had closed onto the rear of the Suzuki, but suddenly the pair were dicing for second rather than third after Crutchlow made a mistake at Lodge and went off into the gravel. It handed Byrne the lead from Sykes and Camier, with Haslam fourth and Crutchlow remounting in fifth, just ahead of Rutter.

The following lap saw Camier make it an Airwaves 1-2 as he got ahead of Sykes with Haslam also getting past the Rizla rider to take third. Sykes saw his challenge then effectively end on lap twelve when he went straight across the grass at Hizzies and slipped back from the leading trio.

Haslam now found the race coming towards him, and on lap 13 he dived down the inside of Camier into Hizzies to take second only to find his rival coming back at him straightaway to reclaim the position as the pair turned into Knickerbrook. Haslam wasn't to be deterred however, and as the pair started lap 14, he took the place at Old Hall.

That lap saw Haslam noticeably quicker than Byrne, and suddenly the Airwave man's comfortable lead looked in jeopardy. From 1.8 seconds at the end of lap 14, the gap was down to under a second by the end of the following lap, and as the pair approached Hizzies on lap 16, Haslam was suddenly on the back of the leader.

With Byrne clearly struggling with his tyres on the drying track, Haslam was all over the back of the lead through the penultimate lap and on the final lap, he launched his move for the lead coming through the high-speed left-hander at Island.

Haslam briefly nudged ahead only for Byrne to retake the place into Shell Oils and while Haslam tried to come back at him at Hizzies, the gap was too big to make a move. It left Haslam with one final chance into Lodge, but despite putting the front of his bike down the inside, he was too far back to make a move stick and Byrne was able to hold on for his second win of the campaign by just two-tenths of a second.

Camier took a lonely third place, while Rutter took fourth after battling ahead of Sykes and Crutchlow in the closing laps. It left Sykes with fifth and Crutchlow with sixth ahead of Michael Laverty, James Ellison, Tristan Palmer and Stuart Easton - the latter trio having been embroiled in a frantic battle for tenth during the middle of the race. Unfortunately for Grant, who had run in the top ten throughout, he was denied a fine finish when he pulled up with technical problems in the final lap.

In the Cup Class, Mercer took the victory from Burns, who hunted down Quigley for second during the closing laps and clinched the position with just two laps to go. With Quigley another rider seeming to struggle with his tyres in the closing stages, Leon Morris took the final podium position on the final lap - giving Team Trimite Brookspeed its first top three finish in the process.

For full results, CLICK HERE.



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