McAMS Yamaha rider Jason O’Halloran fought back from engine woes in qualifying to claim the opening race of the 2021 Bennetts British Superbike Championship, the Australian rider putting in a polished performance to take the honours from Christian Iddon (VisionTrack Ducati) and Tommy Bridewell (Oxford Products Ducati).
It was Iddon who grabbed the holeshot and he led the field round as they started their second lap, O’Halloran having moved up to second and pole man Bridewell in third ahead of Tarran Mackenzie (McAMS Yamaha), Peter Hickman (FHO Racing BMW) and Kyle Ryde (Rich Energy OMG Racing BMW).
The gap had extended to 0.361s at the end of lap two as the top six remained the same but Bradley Ray was out of luck, the second OMG Racing rider pulling in to the pits to retire.
Joe Francis was another rider to make an early exit, the Lloyd & Jones BMW man going down at Lodge and he was followed soon after by Andrew Irwin on the Synetiq BMW machine.
Back at the front and Iddon continued to hold onto the lead but it was down to 0.19s as they started their sixth lap, O’Halloran and Bridewell maintaining station in second and third. Hickman was now up to fourth though having pushed Mackenzie down a place at the Hizzy’s chicane and the front four were now breaking clear whilst Danny Kent was another to crash out at Lodge.
At half race distance, only half a second covered the top four and Iddon’s lead was miniscule, the official gap to O’Halloran just 0.075s as they crossed the line with Bridewell and Hickman still close behind.
O’Halloran was all set to pounce and, indeed, he dived up the inside at Old Hall at the start of the eighth lap. He wasn’t done there either and by the end of the lap had pulled away by four tenths of a second.
However, Iddon responded and re-took the lead a lap later as Hickman began to drop back slightly in fourth. Mackenzie was now having a lonely ride in fifth with Glenn Irwin up to sixth for Honda Racing having overhauled Ryde.
Lap 10 and it was O’Halloran back in front although it remained close, his lead over Iddon two laps later still only 0.2s. Bridewell was half a second adrift in third with Hickman’s podium chances looking over as he’d now dropped a further two seconds to the Ducati man.
On the penultimate lap of the race, O’Halloran got the hammer down and recorded the fastest lap of the race, 1’34.715s, to double his advantage and he wasn’t to be denied as he duly won the first race of the season.
Iddon was 0.630s adrift at the chequered flag with Bridewell completing the podium places in third. Hickman took fourth ahead of Mackenzie, both having lonely rides in the latter stages, and Irwin duly held on for sixth place.
Ryde took seventh ahead of Lee Jackson (FS-3 Racing Kawasaki), Ryan Vickers (RAF Regular & Reserve Kawasaki) and Josh Brookes, the VisionTrack Ducati man unable to make an impression from his third row start after choosing the harder SC0 rear tyre.