Tarran Mackenzie won a thrilling opening Bennetts British Superbike Championship race at Donington Park on Sunday afternoon, the McAMS Yamaha rider just holding off BMW’s Bradley Ray on the run to the line.
Championship leader Jason O’Halloran (McAMS Yamaha) took third in a race that saw a number of the leading contenders crash out and just 15 riders take the chequered flag.
It was the two McAMS Yamaha’s of Mackenzie and O’Halloran who led the field round at the end of the opening lap from Peter Hickman (FHO Racing BMW), Andrew Irwin (Synetiq BMW), Christian Iddon (VisionTrack Ducati) and Ray but it was a disaster for Ryan Vickers (RAF Regular & Reserve Kawasaki) who had a technical issue and had to start from the back of the grid instead of his scheduled front row position.
Irwin went from fourth to second next time around and Iddon pushed O’Halloran back to fourth on lap three whilst Glenn Irwin (Honda Racing) was also moving forward and was up to fifth from ninth place on the grid. Meanwhile, Vickers was already up to 12th.
Lap four saw further changes and although Mackenzie still led, it was now Iddon in second from Andrew Irwin, Glenn Irwin and O’Halloran now down to fifth. Vickers’ charge was temporarily halted as he ran on at the chicane and dropped back to 17th.
Drama then happened at the start of lap seven when Iddon dived up the inside of Andrew Irwin at Redgate and as the latter cut back on the inside, the duo touched and down went Iddon.
Mackenzie’s advantage at one third race distance was 0.195s over Glenn Irwin with Andrew Irwin now third ahead of Hickman, O’Halloran – who wasn’t having it all his own way this time around – and Ray. Vickers had regrouped and was back up to 12th and this became tenth on lap nine.
Lap ten saw Mackenzie relinquish the lead for the first time as Glenn Irwin, looking for his first win of the year, went to the head of the field but although Andrew Irwin was third on track, he was hit with a two second penalty for the Redgate incident.
That put him down to seventh on corrected time and it was Hickman now in third just as Mackenzie went back into the lead. O’Halloran was up to fourth from Tommy Bridewell (Oxford Products Ducati) and Ray.
The leading group were covered by just two-seconds but at half race distance, Mackenzie had edged away from all the bumping and barging with a near second lead, the biggest advantage of the race, Hickman and O’Halloran continuing to hold onto the remaining podium positions.
Glenn Irwin had dropped back to eighth with brother Andrew one place further back and Glenn’s misery was then complete when he crashed out at McLean’s after being tagged from behind by Rory Skinner. Meanwhile, one of the fastest men on track was now Josh Brookes, the reigning champion moving from 18th on the first lap to tenth.
At the head of the field, Mackenzie was continuing to add to his lead with the margin up to 1.7s at the end of lap 18, Hickman still in second from O’Halloran. Bridewell, Ray and Kyle Ryde (Rich Energy OMG Racing BMW) were now in fourth to sixth. Vickers was now running with the group of riders battling for fourth.
Two laps later, Mackenzie was some three-seconds clear but on lap 22, and with just four laps to go, the safety car came out after Danny Buchan (Synetiq BMW) crashed at the Old Hairpin.
That bunched the pack up with two extra laps being added to the race distance and with the safety car pulling in at the end of lap 25, it all came down to a three-lap sort out..
O’Halloran dived up the inside of Mackenzie at the Old Hairpin on the final lap to take the lead for the first time but Mackenzie retaliated at McLeans and deservedly took his second win of the season.
It was tight though as Ray got by O’Halloran at the final chicane and almost got the win, only missing out by 0.066s! Championship leader O’Halloran had to settle for third and although Vickers crossed the line in fourth, a two-second penalty meant he ended up seventh.
That meant it was Hickman in fourth from Bridewell, Ryde, Vickers, Xavi Fores (FHO Racing BMW), Andrew Irwin and Brookes, the latter losing out in the last two laps after the safety car pulled in.