Samsung Honda's Jon Kirkham celebrated the first victory of the MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship season at Brands Hatch this afternoon after stealing the lead from Tyco Suzuki's Alastair Seeley on the final lap.
Kirkham was ecstatic with his first win for his new Samsung Honda team, and after the second saftey car put his head down and raced to an exciting race finish.
"First race and first win for Samsung Honda and I am ecstatic." said Kirkham. "I knew there would be a few incidents but I just kept my head down. The second safety car mixed me up a bit but then Alastair Seeley nipped up the inside of me at Druids and got away a little bit."
"I started closing back in on him and tried to make a pass at Paddock Hill Bend but it was sliding underneath me. I just knew I needed to stay as close as possible to Alastair and then he got a bit sideways out of Clearways and I just went for it. It felt a bit like Tommy and Hopper on that last lap last year!" he concluded
On the opening lap Graeme Gowland and Florian Marino crashed out at Paddock Hill Bend as Shane 'Shakey' Byrne took the hole shot off the line from the front row. As the pack streamed through Druids for the first time Michael Laverty and Patric Muff slid off on the exit with the pair trying to rejoin. Laverty was able to return to the pitlane with damage to the Samsung Honda.
Byrne held the lead from Kirkham and pole sitter Josh Brookes, but a few laps later and MSS Bathams Kawasaki's Michael Rutter dived down the inside of Brookes at Druids to move third behind Byrne and Kirkham.
Kirkham hit the front of the field from Byrne by the seventh lap and then Rutter pushed the Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki rider back a further place to third across the line on the eighth lap. Tommy Hill was attempting to carve his way through the field and was running up to 16th after the opening ten laps on the Swan Yamaha.
As Stuart Easton retired his Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki at the end of the tenth lap Padgetts Honda's Luca Scassa crashed out of sixth place on the run up to Druids, he was unhurt in the crash but missed out on the opening points of the season. Two laps later and Dan Linfoot slid off at Paddock Hill Bend causing the Nissan GTR Safety Car to be deployed.
When the race resumed Seeley took the advantage and pushed ahead of Rutter at Paddock Hill Bend to move second behind Kirkham, before the Tyco Suzuki rider took the lead just a lap later with a move up the inside at Druids. His team-mate Brookes had dropped to fourth but as he entered Graham Hill Bend on the 24th lap the Australian saved a crash that saw him run onto the grass before rejoining. He ended the race in tenth position.
Seeley then held the lead until the closing stages, when the Tyco Suzuki began to slide out of Clearways for the final time and that gave Kirkham the chance he needed to cut ahead with the pair separated by just 0.136 seconds across the line at the finish. Rutter held on to fourth with Ian Lowry carving through the field on the Padgetts Honda to finish fourth as Gary Mason and Tommy Bridewell were able to pass Byrne over the closing stages.
James Westmoreland was the first of the WFR Honda riders in eighth after he successfully challenged Freddy Foray on the second Quattro Plant Kawasaki with Brookes completing the top ten. Alex Polita debuted the Ducati Panigale in eleventh for the Jentin Doodson Motorsport Ducati team with Noriyuki Haga in 13th on the Swan Yamaha. Reigning champion Hill's woes continued as he crashed out at Graham Hill Bend with just two laps of the race remaining.
MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship, Brands Hatch, race one result: Jon Kirkham (Samsung Honda) Alastair Seeley (Tyco Suzuki) +0.136s Michael Rutter (MSS Bathams Kawasaki) +0.750s Ian Lowry (Padgetts Honda) +3.023s Gary Mason (Quattro Plant Kawasaki) +5.191s Tommy Bridewell (Supersonic BMW) +6.155s Shane Byrne (Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki) +6.284s James Westmoreland (WFR Honda) +8.813s Freddy Foray (Quattro Plant Kawasaki) +9.145s Josh Brookes (Tyco Suzuki) +9.411s
The 2012 MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship continues next weekend at Thruxton 13/14/15 April