Jason O’Halloran came out on top in the opening Bennetts British Superbike Championship race at Brands Hatch on Saturday afternoon, the McAMS Yamaha rider taking his fifth win in six races to close to within four points of championship leader Bradley Ray.
The Rich Energy OMG Racing Yamaha rider finished fourth with reigning champion Tarran Mackenzie making it a McAMS Yamaha 1-2 in second just ahead of Tommy Bridewell (Oxford Products Ducati).
O’Halloran made the perfect start to lead into Paddock Hill Bend and it was a Yamaha 1-2-3-4 in the early stages with Mackenzie, Ray and Kyle Ryde running close behind but a tangle at Druids saw Glenn Irwin’s race end at just the second corner.
At the end of the opening lap, O’Halloran led by almost half a second as Mackenzie and Ray disputed second ahead of Ryde, Rory Skinner (Cheshire Mouldings FS-3 Kawasaki) and Josh Brookes (MCE Ducati). Next time around, Ray moved up to second and Bridewell overhauled Brookes for sixth.
The top six began to edge away from the rest of the field, with the gap to Brookes almost a second after three laps and the former double champion had his hands full with Leon Haslam, Lee Jackson and Christian Iddon not too far adrift.
Back at the front and O’Halloran continued to lead the way but it was close with his lead over Ray just two tenths of a second as they started lap five with Mackenzie a similar distance behind in third. Bridewell was now fourth having overtaken both Skinner and Ryde on lap four.
The front three were three quarters of a second clear of Bridewell with Ryde now a further second back and Skinner, who had Brookes on his tail, a similar distance behind.
Mackenzie, the first rider into the 1’24’s, moved up to second on lap seven and it now looked to be a four-horse race with Bridewell bridging the gap to make it an eight-wheeler at the head of the field. Ninth placed Ryan Vickers was out though having crashed at Druids.
Changes came on lap nine when Ray briefly hit the front at Hawthorn’s but O’Halloran immediately responded and as the battles intensified, Bridewell found a way by Mackenzie to take over third place. Further back, Brookes got by Skinner to go sixth.
Going into lap ten just six tenths of a second covered the top four and a lap later, Bridewell slid up the inside of Ray at Paddock Hill Bend to go into second but all the time, O’Halloran was just edging away, his lead with three laps to go almost half a second. Mackenzie was also on the move and pushed Ray back to fourth on lap 13.
O’Halloran’s pace in the final third of the race ultimately saw him take the win by 0.665s and it was Mackenzie who took second ahead of Bridewell and Ray. Ryde had a lonely race but still claimed a solid fifth with Brookes doing similar in sixth.
Skinner finished seventh ahead of Haslam (VisionTrack Kawasaki), Jackson (Cheshire Mouldings FS-3 Kawasaki) and Iddon, the Buildbase Suzuki rider returning from injury with a solid tenth.