The opening round of the British Superbikes at Donington Park provided action as hot as the glorious weather on a fantastic Bank Holiday Monday. WP were especially lucky, hosting a number of guests in our hospitality suite, we were provided with the perfect vantage point from which to see James Ellison win his first race since 2013 and Shane Byrne’s epic battle with Dan Linfoot in the second race of the day.
The first BSB race of the day and the 2015 championship went to James Ellison and the JG Speedfit Kawasaki team for whom this was their first ever win. There were also celebrations in the Milwaukee Yamaha team as Josh Brookes snatched third place on the final lap - a first podium finish for the new YZF-R1.
On the opening lap the pack piled into Redgate as Byrne and pole-sitter Ryuichi Kiyonari battled to take the advantage, but it was Ellison who carved into the lead to head the pack into Craner Curves for the first time.
Byrne was instantly on the attack and he held the lead by the exit of the Old Hairpin. The pack was shuffling all the way through the field until the Nissan GT-R Safety Car was deployed a lap later as Rhalf Lo Turco crashed out at Melbourne.
When the race resumed Ellison snatched the lead into Hollywood and then Byrne was doing everything in his power to look for a move to claim the opening win. However, the still injured champion couldn't find a way ahead and he had to settle for second behind the JG Speedfit Kawasaki team, who celebrated their debut race win in MCE BSB.
Ellison said: "Shakey (Byrne) definitely pushed me all the way and had a strong pace. I figured I had to get away at the start and race with these boys as I wanted a clean race. There are a lot of guys that are new to the championship and have a bit of a point to prove and I knew they would be a problem if we got mixed up with them. My plan doesn't normally work, but this time it did for once!”
The second race of the day saw a fantastic battle between Shane Byrne and Dan Linfoot which eventually resulted in Byrne winning to lead the championship ahead of his home round of Brands Hatch.
There was drama before the race even got underway for race one winner James Ellison as the JG Speedfit Kawasaki rider had a problem with the battery, which meant he was forced to start from the back of the grid after the team frantically worked to get him out on circuit. The Kendal rider charged through the field to salvage a 12th place finish.
On the opening lap Byrne led the field into Redgate for the first time, with Stuart Easton, Dan Linfoot and Ryuichi Kiyonari in close contention as Josh Brookes also pushed to add to his podium-finishing tally.
Linfoot was soon up to second and was piling the pressure on the defending champion, taking the lead on the fifth lap for the first time onboard the Honda Racing Fireblade. There was more disappointment for Buildbase BMW in the second race as Kiyonari suffered a huge high-side on the sixth lap, which saw him crash out of contention. He was left battered and bruised but showing his frustration in the gravel trap.
The crash left Brookes running off track too as he took evasive action, which dropped him down the order, but a determined ride meant he clawed his way up to sixth for Milwaukee Yamaha.
Meanwhile at the front Linfoot was defending hard and despite Byrne pushing to make a move, he wasn't going to give up the position without a fight. By lap 11 'Shakey' had edged ahead, but the pair were inseparable as Easton waited in the wings to take the advantage if the opportunity arose.
Byrne was trying to gap his Honda rival but Linfoot was strong on the brakes into the Esses and two laps later he regained the lead, however as the pair went side-by-side into Melbourne it was Byrne who exited the hairpin ahead.
By lap 17 the pair were really scrapping in their quest for supremacy, with positions changing five times in one lap as they gunned for the second race win of the day. Linfoot had held the lead over the line, only for Linfoot to attack at Hollywood, with Byrne reclaiming the advantage before the Old Hairpin. The pair then swapped positions again at the Esses and at Melbourne before the decisive last lap decider.
Byrne had held the position and despite Linfoot's best efforts he claimed second place with Easton returning to the podium in third.