Tarran Mackenzie claimed the honours in Sunday’s opening Bennetts British Superbike Championship with the reigning champion coming home 1.1s clear of McAMS Yamaha team-mate Jason O’Halloran for his first win of the season.
Tommy Bridewell (Oxford Products Ducati) took third and with Bradley (Rich Energy OMG Racing Yamaha) in fourth once more, O’Halloran claimed the championship lead for the first time in 2022.
Mackenzie got the holeshot from Ray and with O’Halloran and Kyle Ryde close behind it was another Yamaha 1-2-3-4 but Andrew Irwin (Synetiq BMW) touched the side of Peter Hickman on the exit of Graham Hill Bend and crashed out with Hickman, Glenn Irwin (Honda Racing) and Danny Buchan (Synetiq BMW) all having to take evasive action.
The top six remained the same next time around but at the beginning of lap three, Ray slipped up the inside of Mackenzie at Paddock Hill Bend to take the lead and there was further drama behind when Lee Jackson (Cheshire Mouldings FS-3 Kawasaki) and Christian Iddon (Buildbase Suzuki) crashed almost simultaneously at Stirling’s.
Lap four saw Rory Skinner on the second FS-3 Kawasaki overhaul Ryde for fourth and the top eight were separated by only 1.3s, Leon Haslam (VisionTrack Kawasaki) and Josh Brookes (MCE Ducati) running at the rear of the leading pack, whilst Ryan Vickers’s weekend went from bad to worse with a heavy crash on the FHO Racing BMW at Clearways.
Mackenzie regained the lead on the sixth lap with Bridewell pushing Ryde back to sixth and behind there was further change as Brookes was another to fall victim to Stirling’s the former double champion having a rare crash.
Less than two seconds covered the leading seven riders with Haslam bringing up the rear of the group but he was almost four seconds clear of former World Champions Danny Kent (Buildbase Suzuki) and Tom Sykes (MCE Ducati) who were locked in battle for eighth. Glenn Irwin, meanwhile, had fought his way back up to 11th.
At half race distance, the tenth of 20 laps, Mackenzie still led but had built a healthy advantage now of 0.762s over Ray and the running order behind was O’Halloran, Bridewell, Skinner, Ryde and Haslam. Sykes had moved up to eighth with Kent and Tom Neave completing the top ten.
With his team-mate making a break, O’Halloran spotted the danger and moved up to second on lap 11 and then set about closing the now 1.3s gap to the flying Mackenzie who lapped at 1’25.613s which was half a second quicker than O’Halloran,
However, Mackenzie lapped quicker again and by lap 13, he’d increased his lead to 1.6s with O’Halloran, Bridewell and Ray seemingly unable to respond. Skinner had now dropped off the back of Ray, being 1s adrift, with Haslam and Ryde a further two seconds adrift.
With five laps to go, Mackenzie’s pace continued to be better than his rivals, stretching his advantage to two seconds and, indeed, O’Halloran seemed more focused on keeping Bridewell at bay.
That’s how it panned out and Mackenzie controlled his lead in the final few laps, eventually taking the win from O’Halloran by 1.1s with Bridewell close behind in third for his second podium finish of the weekend.
Ray was more than three seconds adrift in fourth with Haslam getting the better of Skinner for fifth. Ryde dropped off the pace but still held onto seventh with Sykes holding off the close attentions of Kent for eighth. Glenn Irwin rounded out the top ten after his fight back through the field whilst fellow first lap grass trackers Hickman and Buchan took 12th and 15th respectively.