Shane Byrne has won the opening round of the 2011 MCE British Superbike Championship after keeping his head in what was at times a chaotic Brands Hatch race.

The HM Plant Honda rider capitalised on a massive accident for Michael Laverty, who tumbled out of the lead on lap 11 when he high-sided at Clark Curve.

Laverty had been out front from the end of the second lap when he dipped aggressively beneath initial leader Byrne at Clearways before nosing ahead through Clark Curve and across the finishing straight.

With Tommy Hill in third position, sandwiched by Byrne and his team-mate Ryuichi Kiyonari, the quartet began to pull away from the chasing pack, led by the fast-starting Stuart Easton and John Hopkins.

However, the front group would be split up over the course of three laps when Kiyonari fell by the wayside on lap eight with a mechanical issue, before Laverty suffered his spectacular crash on lap 11.

His fall, directly in front of the chasing duo, forced Byrne to slow in avoidance, while Hill had nowhere to go but through the gravel trap along the start-finish straight. Despite the severity of the crash, and an impact with Hill's bike, Laverty walked away from the crash unharmed.

With the safety car out, the series of events had shaken up the order, with Easton now in the lead, ahead of Byrne, Loris Baz, Josh Brookes, Michael Rutter and Tommy Bridewell. Hill rejoined in 11th, while Hopkins, who had been tailing Easton at the time, was at the back of the field following a fall at Druids.

With his main rivals down or out, Byrne wasted no time in relieving Easton of the lead when the race resumed with a pass at Druids, though the Scot did briefly fight back with a determined pass at Clark Curve.

Byrne would eventually resume in the lead on lap 17, a decisive pass that would see him go on to enjoy an unchallenged run to the chequered flag for a victory on his return to the British Superbike Championship.

Having moved into second position behind Byrne on lap 17, Brookes had looked like a potential victory threat, but he would crash out at Paddock Hill Bend shortly afterwards.

Instead, the position went to the recovering Hill, who set a fastest lap as he scythed his way back up the order, the Swan Yamaha rider doing a fine job to finish just two seconds behind Byrne.

The battle for the final podium position went down to the final corner when a charging Tommy Bridewell pressured Easton into a minor mistake out of Clearways and darted beneath. The exceptional result marks Bridewell and Tyco Honda's first podium finish in BSB.

Easton had to settle for fourth position, ahead of Kirkham, who was rewarded for two fight back rides, the first occurring when a poor start left him down in 15th before an error in the pack mid-race dropped him to the bottom end of the top ten with only a few laps to go.

Michael Rutter held down a provisional podium position before fading to sixth at the chequered, while Loris Baz enjoyed a feisty ride on the way to seventh place

Dan Linfoot finished in eighth on his debut for the SMT Honda team, ahead of Martin Jessopp - scoring a top ten finish in his first BSB race for almost a year - and Chris Walker on the Pr1mo Kawasaki.

Elsewhere, Alex Lowes looked on course for EVO honours after a remarkable charge during the opening half of the race saw him up to fifth position at one stage. However, he would eventually slide back to 12th position, just behind WFR team-mate Glen Richards, who took category honours as a result.

Bridewell's team-mate Peter Hickman, Steve Brogan and Simon Andrews rounded out the remaining points' positions, while Hopkins recovered from last to 17th place.



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