Haslam wins assen race one thriller
Leon Haslam has closed the gap on Shane Byrne in the MCE British Superbike championship battle by holding off a last-corner charge to win by just 0.01s in an enthralling opening race at Assen. In a pulsating race which saw the lead passed between the front three on countless occasions over the opening laps, a train of all the Showdown riders made an early breakaway with each muscling in for position.
Haslam, Ellison and Byrne all enjoyed stints at the front with bold moves before settling on a rhythm at halfway race distance to move clear of the Honda pair, Luke Mossey and Michael Laverty. With five laps to go Ellison was eased off the tussle for the lead as Haslam lined up a pass up the inside at turn one on Byrne.
Three laps from the end Haslam's first attempt at turn one saw him slide wide to give the Be Wiser Ducati rider the chance to blast back at turn two but with the grip knowledge the JG Speedfit Kawasaki rider perfected the move to keep the four-time champion behind. It didn't see Byrne drop off with the championship leader all over the rear of Haslam on the closing lap. Despite being slightly too far back at the final chicane, Byrne lined up his Ducati to get early drive to the finish line but missed out on mugging Haslam on the line by just 0.010s.
Ellison comfortably took third place two seconds back from the front ahead of Honda's Linfoot and O'Halloran – who will start race two from pole position.
Top six Showdown spoiler Michael Laverty split the title contenders with sixth place ahead of Quattro Plant Kawasaki's Luke Mossey.
Buildbase BMW's Richard Cooper closed up the head pack late on but has to settle for eighth in front of the ePayMe Yamaha pair of Broc Parkes and John Hopkins. The second Be Wiser Ducati of Glenn Irwin claimed 11th ahead of Christian Iddon as Billy McConnell, Jakub Smrz and Lee Jackson rounded out the points positions.
Leon Haslam is ready to take the MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship title fight down to the wire at Brands Hatch in two weeks’ time after the JG Speedfit Kawasaki rider scored a double victory at Assen to move to within 17 points of Shane 'Shakey' Byrne. Haslam had narrowly beaten Byrne to the line in the opening race and was determined to keep his arch rival in his wheel tracks again in the second race. At the start pole-sitter Jason O'Halloran fired the Honda Fireblade to the front of the field from Dan Linfoot, James Ellison and Haslam. Meanwhile championship leader Byrne was languishing outside the top ten in twelfth place after a bad start off the second row. Ellison was instantly attacking hard and he moved up into second to split the Honda Racing team-mates. Haslam was ready to follow Ellison up the order and a lap later he also moved ahead of Linfoot as O’Halloran was forced to surrender the lead to Ellison.
Ellison’s lead was short lived as Haslam dived ahead a lap later, only for Ellison to retaliate with a move which put him back at the front of the field. A few corners later though and the JG Speedfit Kawasaki paint-swapping continued as Ellison regained control. Honda Racing’s O'Halloran then moved back into second on the fifth lap, with Haslam holding the lead ahead of the Australian and a chasing pack of Ellison, Linfoot, Luke Mossey and Richard Cooper.
By lap six Byrne was up to seventh and desperately trying to fight his way through the pack to regain the positions, but at the front O’Halloran retook the lead only for Haslam to instantly fire a counter attack just a few corners later but across the line the Honda Racing Fireblade was narrowly ahead. O’Halloran was clinging onto the lead before Haslam once again hit the front with Ellison then also pushing him back a further place into third as Byrne surged up the pack to be fourth by the 14th lap.
The leading quartet was Haslam, Ellison, O’Halloran and Byrne with Linfoot, Mossey and Cooper pushing for any opportunity to make a move. O’Halloran was able to make another pass on lap 15 to split the JG Speedfit Kawasakis. Ellison was then dropping down the order but at the front Haslam was holding off O’Halloran and an incoming Byrne who had clawed his way into contention for a podium finish and moved into third with two laps remaining. On the penultimate lap Byrne was up to second and the last two laps came down to a fight between the pair, but the ‘Pocket Rocket’ had the edge at the finish despite the best efforts of his Be Wiser Ducati rival with O’Halloran completing the podium trio. Linfoot held fourth place ahead of Mossey and Michael Laverty who pushed Ellison back into seventh.