Alastair Seeley enjoyed his first victory in the MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship at rain-lashed Brands Hatch on Saturday afternoon.
The 30-year-old had graduated into the top flight on the strength of winning the National Superstock crown in runaway style last season, and in difficult wet conditions Seeley charged into the lead on the opening lap of the re-started race, decided over 10 laps, and then held off the determined and experienced Michael Rutter to take the victory.
“That was unbelievable, a long time coming, but this is where I’ve always wanted to be, and the guys in the team have done a fantastic job for me,” said Seeley.
“I was a bit aggressive on the opening lap, getting through and getting past a few, then I was sliding around a lot, I lost count of the number of times, and I had to tell myself to calm down.
“Then my visor steamed up, and I opened it but the wind was bringing tears to my eyes and had to close it,” he added.
That made little difference as he powered on, heading Rutter home by a little under a third of a second and the RidersMotorcycles.com Ducati rider had no complaints at settling for second best.
“He was sliding around but rode fantastically, while I struggled a bit,” he said.
Ryuichi Kiyonari took third place ahead of his HM Plant Honda teammate Josh Brookes who moved into the series lead 229-219 ahead of Worx Suzuki rider Tommy Hill who struggled throughout, just scraping a single point as he took a 15th place finish.
World Superbike regular Tom Sykes, riding the factory Kawasaki and returning for a one-off appearance in the domestic series took fifth place ahead of Michael Laverty and James Ellison.
Ellison’s Swan Honda teamster Stuart Easton crashed out of contention at Paddock Hill.
Yukio Kagayama ran eighth for Worx Crescent Suzuki from John Laverty on the Buildbase Kawasaki with Ian Lowry who had answered a late call to ride the second World Superbike Kawasaki completing the top 10.
Chris Burns, riding Splitlath Aprilia won the Mirror.co.uk BSB-EVO class ahead of Aaron Zanotti but there was no luck for Jentin BMW rider Steve Brogan who tipped off under pressure from Gary Johnson midway through the race, losing the lead in the title stakes to Hudson Kennaugh.
Earlier, Rutter, who had topped the Swan Combi Roll for Pole, had looked to be on course for a second victory of the season as comfortably led Brookes for nine laps with Kiyonari third from Michael Laverty and Seeley before rain fell bringing out the red-flags.
In Supersport, James Westmoreland won a dramatic, high-speed shoot-out for pole start with series leading Sam Lowes – they re-wrote the record books in a thrilling scrap that saw the top of the leaderboard changed three times in the closing minutes.
Graeme Gowland looked to have done enough to secure top spot, having shaved the record on his PTR Honda, but then came the late, fast show with Westmoreland bettering that time on his CAME Yamaha, only for GNS Honda riding Lowes to lap even faster.
Westmoreland answered that perfectly, upping the tempo, to take top spot with a remarkable time of 1:27.980.
“It was pretty intense out there in the final minutes and I knew that I had to put in a good one to get pole. It is a hard championship, everyone is riding so well,” he said.
Lowes had to settle for second best, running just 0.054secs down with Gowland third fastest as Billy McConnell completed the front row line up on the second CAME Yamaha.
Former champion Glen Richards completed the second row in eighth, with fellow Aussie Jason O’Halloran ninth.
Richards qualified second in Superstock 1000, while HM Plant Honda guest rider Bryan Staring was 10th.