The British Superbike career of John Hopkins got off to a rocky start with a spill in the crash-strewn first race of the season on the Brands Hatch Indy circuit outside of London.The Samsung Crescent Suzuki rider was making good progress, having made his way to fifth after qualifying 11th before crashing. The Californian remounted to finish 17th.Pole-sitter and two-time former BSB champion Shakey Byrne won the race by 1.154 secs. over Swan Yamaha’s Tommy Hill. Byrne was chasing leader Michael Laverty (Swan Yamaha) when Laverty crashed on the 11th of 30 laps. The riders behind had to take evasive action, shuffling the order, and the safety car was deployed. Soon after the re-start Byrne moved into the lead for good to take his first BSB win since 2008.
“I didn’t have any excuses if I didn’t have a result today riding for the championship-winning team,” Byrne, who raced World Superbike the last two years, said. “It was a hectic race and I got a good start and then Michael’s (Laverty) crash happened in slow motion right in front of me and I was lucky that I managed to miss him. That incident then bunched us all up and then I had a fight with Stuart Easton but I knew I had to get past him as soon as possible. It’s fantastic to have won the first race of the season and I can’t wait for race two now.”Tyco Honda’s Thomas Bridewell won the battle for third over MSS Colchester Kawasaki’s Stuart Easton and Hopkins’ teammate Jon Kirkham. The trio was covered by less than a second. Easton ran wide on the final lap, giving Bridewell an opening to take the last podium spot.Hopkins was far from the only rider to fall on the tight, 1.198-mile, six-turn track. Motorpoint Yamaha’s James Westmoreland, Buildbase BMW teammates John Laverty and Ian Lowry, and Relentless Suzuki’s Josh Brookes also crashed out. Defending series champion Ryuichi Kiyonari was in the mix when he was forced to retire with a technical issue on his HM Plant Honda CBR1000RR.Hopkins should have an easier start to the second race. The race two grid is determined by the fastest laps in the first race. Second place finisher Hill will start on pole, with Hopkins starting fifth.