British Superbike Championship titans Leon Haslam and Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne claimed a win apiece at the fourth round at Knockhill in an incredible pair of races.
In the opening dry race at the Scottish circuit Kawasaki’s Haslam served up his third victory of the season after an intense fight for the win with Honda Racing’s Dan Linfoot.
As the race got underway Jason O’Halloran had hit the front of the pack from Haslam and John Hopkins, with the ‘Pocket Rocket’ hitting the lead with a decisive move on the third lap. As the pair diced for the lead, Byrne was pushing to move up the order, but crashed out on the fourth lap at the Hairpin, collecting Briggs Equipment BMW’s Jake Dixon as he fell.
The incident bought out the safety car and the pack formed up with Haslam leading Hopkins. By Lap 11 Hopkins was looking menacing at the front, briefly taking the lead for the ePayMe Yamaha team, but as they streamed down to the Hairpin Haslam made a strong move to regain the lead.
Linfoot was also on the move, pushing ahead of Hopkins to go second as Luke Mossey carved his way through the field and then also made a move on the American to move into third.
Linfoot then began piling the pressure on Haslam for the lead, regaining the position on the run into Turn One. However, just two laps later Haslam repaid the move with a pass down the inside into the Hairpin and the pair continued to trade blows, but the JG Speedfit Kawasaki rider crossed the line to claim the win.
Mossey held off Hopkins to take third, becoming the tenth different rider to claim a podium finish this season with Peter Hickman closing on the leading quartet to score fifth position from Richard Cooper on the Buildbase BMW.
Race Two saw conditions completely change and Be Wiser Ducati’s Byrne bounced back from his crash in the opening race to claim victory, scything his way through the pack before an intense scrap at the front.
Linfoot had initially hit the front ahead of Hopkins, but the positions rapidly changed as Hickman and Haslam moved ahead of the American.
Hickman was hounding Linfoot and the JG Speedfit Kawasaki rider pulled a move at the Hairpin to take the lead. However, Linfoot instantly responded, repaying the move to head back into the lead.
As Linfoot and Hickman diced at the front, race one winner Haslam and Byrne had moved into third and fourth respectively and soon the ‘Pocket Rocket’ was trading blows with his team-mate ahead of him. Haslam finally moved ahead of Hickman at the Hairpin with Byrne following him.
Byrne then pulled a pass on championship leader Haslam, moving into second before both Byrne and Haslam took advantage of a mistake by Linfoot when he ran wide, pushing the Honda Racing rider back into third.
Haslam then claimed the lead from Byrne and the leading two riders in the standings then diced intensely for the advantage. Linfoot wasn’t done though, and he moved back to the front of the trio with a move on the 25th lap. However, just one lap later Byrne was back ahead.
Four-time champion Shakey then wasn’t giving an inch and he edged away as the battle for the final podium positions intensified. Linfoot stayed ahead of Haslam, but in the final three laps a hard-charging Ellison continued to move up the order, passing Haslam and then mugging Linfoot for second place at the line.
Hickman surged ahead to fourth in the closing laps ahead of O’Halloran and Haslam who dropped to sixth after suffering with visor problems. Richard Cooper continued his run of strong point scoring finishes in seventh ahead of Tommy Bridewell turned his weekend around to score an eighth place for Bennetts Suzuki.
Howie Mainwaring and Christian Iddon completed the top ten, but it was disappointment for John Hopkins and Glenn Irwin who both crashed out unhurt.
Race One winner Haslam was bullish after the weekend, claiming he could have had a brace of wins bar the visor incident. He said: “We’ve extended the Championship lead over this weekend, but for me it should have been a very easy second win. With ten to 12 laps to go I couldn’t see anything, and I dropped nearly three to four seconds a lap at the end, it wasn’t anything to do with the bike it was purely because I couldn’t see.
“I felt good, I felt the pace I had at the front I could have gone quicker at any point but I just couldn’t see. I’m feeling pretty confident heading into Snetterton, I have a test in between in Japan but we will take the positives from this weekend.”
Race Two winner Byrne relished crossing the line first in challenging conditions. He Said: “It was a difficult second race to be honest. Before we started one of my mechanics said to me it is a long race and you are starting from the fourth row, there are a lot of chances for things to go wrong!
“I got to second quite quickly, then I got in the lead and then Leon passed me. I followed him for a bit and I felt quite happy there, then Dan Linfoot passed me and I thought ‘this isn’t in the plan, I don’t want to go backwards!’
“I got to the front, I had a few little issues to deal with and made a few mistakes and with all the work that I gave the Be Wiser Ducati team this weekend they deserved that win. I had two crashes this weekend and that isn’t like me, so thanks to them – it is onwards and upwards now!”