Samsung Crescent Suzuki's John Hopkins saw his British Superbike Championship lead reduced to two points ahead of the season finale after a technical problem on the opening lap dropped him to an eventual 12th in the penultimate round of the series on the Brands Hatch GP course.
Hopkins had extended his lead to 11 points by fighting off a determined Tommy Hill (Swan Yamaha) to finish third to Hill's fourth in Saturday's race, a makeup race for an earlier rain-out at Oulton Park and the first of three on the weekend. But Hopkins' title hopes were dealt a blow on the first lap of Sunday's 20 laps when a sensor failed, forcing him to turn off the system and reboot the ECU, which forced him to the back of the 31-rider field. Since the technical issue wasn't fatal Hopkins was able to re-start and fight his way back to 12th, more than a minute behind the race winner.
HM Plant Honda's Shakey Byrne won the race over Hopkins' teammate Jon Kirkham, with James Ellison (Sorrymate.com Honda) a distant third. Hill couldn't take advantage and finished fourth for the second day in a row. That gives Hopkins a lead of 629 to 627 ahead of this afternoon's final race.
Hopkins was more fortunate than a few other title contenders. Swan Yamaha's Michael Laverty and Relentless Suzuki by TAS rider Josh Brookes both crashed out, leaving the title to be fought between Hopkins and Hill. Byrne is a solid third, but 37 points behind Hopkins. Laverty crashed on the second lap, with Brookes falling spectacularly on lap three.
1. Shane Byrne (HM Plant Honda)
2. Jon Kirkham (Samsung Crescent Racing Suzuki)
3. James Ellison (Sorrymate.com Honda)
4. Tommy Hill (Swan Yamaha)
5. Chris Walker (Pr1mo Racing Kawasaki)
6. Graeme Gowland (WFR Honda)
7. Tommy Bridewell (Motorpoint Yamaha)
8. James Westmoreland (WFR Honda)
9. Dan Linfoot (Tyco Honda)
10. Karl Harris (Splitlath Aprilia)
12. John Hopkins (Samsung Crescent Racing Suzuki)