Jason O’Halloran claimed first place in Sunday’s opening Bennetts British Superbike Championship race at Donington Park, the McAMS Yamaha rider taking his first win of the season as he came home 2.5s clear of Bradley Ray (Rich Energy OMG Yamaha) with Lee Jackson (Cheshire Mouldings FS-3 Kawasaki) taking third.
O’Halloran grabbed the holeshot from pole position and he led at the end of the opening lap from Ray, Kyle Ryde on the second Rich Energy machine, Glenn Irwin (Honda Racing), Jackson and Christian Iddon (Buildbase Suzuki) but Ray hit the front second time around. Leon Jeacock (Specsavers Suzuki) was out though having crashed at McLeans and Tommy Bridewell (Oxford Products Ducati) went down at the same spot a lap later.
Ryde soon made it a Rich OMG one-two and by lap four the running order was Ray, Ryde, O’Halloran, Irwin, Jackson and Iddon, Ray’s advantage over his teammate just under half a second. Less than a second covered the leading trio with Irwin and Jackson locked in battle for fourth.
However, Saturday’s race winner Ryde crashed out at McLean’s on the sixth lap and that allowed Ray’s lead to stretch out to 1.3s whilst a lap later Jackson overhauled Irwin for third. Iddon moved up to fifth after Ryde’s demise with Leon Haslam up to sixth on the VisionTrack Kawasaki.
Ray was continuing to control proceedings at the head of the field but O’Halloran cut the deficit to 0.7s on lap ten and just one lap later it was down to a quarter of a second. Jackson was going with O’Halloran too with 0.8s now covering the top three. Irwin was a further 0.7s back in fourth with Iddon 2.5s back in fifth.
O’Halloran slid up the inside of Ray at the chicane at the end of lap 11 and the running order on lap 13, half race distance, was O’Halloran, Ray, Jackson, Iddon, Haslam and Rory Skinner on the second FS-3 Kawasaki. Irwin was touring though and pulled in to retire.
The field was now split into two groups with O’Halloran, Ray and Jackson disputing the lead, just half a second covering them, with Iddon, Haslam, Skinner and reigning champion Tarran Mackenzie (McAMS Yamaha) battling for fourth. They were almost five seconds behind the front three but running nose to tail and Haslam overhauled Iddon for fourth on lap 17.
O’Halloran was maintaining a half second lead at the front and, going into the final few laps, it looked to be a two-horse race with Jackson having dropped 1.5s in arrears. The battle behind continued to rage though and by lap 20 it was Skinner, Haslam, Mackenzie, Iddon and Peter Hickman (FHO BMW) in that order, the latter having reeled the group in.
Going into the closing stages and O’Halloran had extended his lead over Ray to 1.5s and he duly took his first win of the season although second for Ray was enough for him to increase his championship lead.
Jackson was comfortable in third and it was Hickman who rode superbly to come through the pack and take fourth ahead of Haslam, Mackenzie, Iddon and Skinner. Ryan Vickers on the second FHO BMW took ninth with the MCE Ducati pairing of Josh Brookes and Tom Sykes following him home in tenth and eleventh.