Leon Haslam had the perfect start to his 2017 MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship season, claiming a double race win for JG Speedfit Kawasaki at his home circuit of Donington Park, but he was pushed all the way by Luke Mossey and Josh Brookes on his return to the series.
The competition proved to be fierce from the opening races of the season with five different riders representing four teams and four different manufacturers featuring on the two podiums at the Leicestershire circuit.
The first raceday of the year started dramatically with a crash in warm up for defending champion Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne at Craner Curves. The Be Wiser Ducati rider suffered concussion in the crash and was forced to sit out the opening two races, returning at the next round of Brands Hatch this Easter weekend.
In the opening race Haslam claimed his first race win at Donington Park in 2006, holding off his JG Speedfit Kawasaki team-mate Luke Mossey and Tyco BMW’s Christian Iddon.
As race one got underway James Ellison fired himself straight to the front of the pack as they reaches Redgate for the first time ahead of Haslam, Mossey and Brookes on the Anvil Hire TAG Yamaha.
As the pack reached the Old Hairpin Mossey and Brookes touched, pushing the Australian down to ninth on the opening lap and needing to make a fight back. At the front Ellison was holding the lead but Haslam was piling on the pressure and on the seventh lap the ‘Pocket Rocket’ made his move.
Mossey was also shadowing the pair and followed his team-mate into second place, nudging Ellison back into third. The JG Speedfit Kawasaki pairing held the leading two positions but the battle was intensifying for third as Ellison dropped back into the clutches of Peter Hickman, Iddon, Brookes and Michael Laverty.
Hickman was the first to make an attack at Melbourne on Ellison, giving Iddon the chance to also move ahead. The Tyco BMW rider was stalking Hickman for third, leaving it until the closing stages to make a lunge into the Esses to move third and claim the final podium position.
Hickman held off Ellison as Glenn Irwin got the better of Brookes on the final lap to claim sixth with Laverty, Jake Dixon and Jason O’Halloran completed the top ten.
As race two got underway Brookes fired off the pole position into the lead on the opening lap and as the pack streamed down Craner Curves for the first time the Australian was fighting off Haslam, Mossey and Laverty.
Laverty was attacking Mossey, moving to third on the second lap, but the race ended prematurely for the leading McAMS Yamaha when he suffered a technical problem and was forced to retire.
At the front Ellison had moved into third behind the battling Brookes and Haslam but on the eighth lap the local hero took a look over his shoulder as he crossed the start line, giving Ellison the chance to make a pass into Redgate.
A lap later though and Haslam was on the counterattack; jamming his way ahead of his former team-mate as the leading pair of Brookes and Haslam began to edge an advantage.
Haslam was shadowing Brookes and with five laps to go he made his move at the Esses and was able to hold off his Australian rival to the finish. However behind the battle for third had intensified with Glenn Irwin storming his way through the pack to close in on the trio of Mossey, Iddon and Ellison.
Haslam said: “This is my third ever win at the track and I won back in 2006 was the last time I won here. To win at my home round at Donington and to get a 1-2 for the team and it couldn’t have gone any better and thanks to all the boys for the effort.”
Irwin saved his best for last, making his moves count over the final two laps and despite a huge last lap duel with race one podium finisher Iddon, he was able to claim his first podium finish of the season to the jubilation of the Be Wiser Ducati team.
Iddon was forced to settle for fourth ahead of Mossey and Ellison as Sylvain Guintoli bounced back from a race one crash to finish seventh after getting the better of Peter Hickman. Davide Giugliano and Jason O’Halloran completed the top ten.
For more information visit www.britishsuperbike.com