Cougar Bourbon Honda rider Bryan Staring overcame a blistered rear tire to extend his championship lead to 23.5pts after claiming victory in the first of this weekend's two races at the fifth round of the Viking Group Australian Superbike Championship at Victoria's Phillip Island circuit.
The 23-year-old, who entered the round 18.5pts ahead of arch rival Wayne Maxwell (Demolition Plus GAS Honda), took victory by 6.281sec over Maxwell with Valvoline Honda rider Glenn Allerton third, a further 2.829sec behind.
After exchanging places numerous times each lap in the opening part of the race, the 10-lap race became a battle of survival after half distance as all three riders suffered blistered rear tires on a circuit that is notoriously hard on rubber.
"My rear tire went off on lap five, so from then on it was a matter of getting to the finish," said Allerton, the 2008 Australian Superbike Champion.
Race winner Staring was in fact fortunate to get to half distance as he and Team Motologic Ducati rider Jamie Stauffer touched as they entered Turn One at close to 300km/h as they started lap four, with pole-sitter Stauffer surviving a wild ride across the wet infield on his Ducati 1198R.
"My front tire touched the back of Bryan's bike, so I was lucky to stay on," said Stauffer, who rejoined the race to finish 17th.
Fourth-placed Team Suzuki rider Shawn Giles and fifth-placed privateer rider Scott Charlton also suffered blistered tires on what is the fastest circuit on the world MotoGP calendar, leaving riders and team managers to ponder alternative tyre selections for tomorrow's second 10-lap race.
The second of this weekend's two races is scheduled for late Sunday morning, with team managers and race officials hoping for cool weather to avoid a repeat of today's tire safety concerns.
"There are four control tires that we can choose from, so I'll discuss it with Shawn (Giles) and we'll have to look at what is the best option for race two," said Team Suzuki race manager Phil Tainton.
Run in conjunction with the L&H 500 V8 Supercar event, today's opening Australian Superbike Championship race marked a return to the successful ‘2 plus 4' concept which last ran in 1999.
"It's great to be racing with the V8 guys, and there are a few bets on about lap times this weekend," said Maxwell, who holds the Superbike lap record at 1:32.316 mins., 1.1229sec faster than the V8 lap record held by Craig Lowndes.
After today's win, his fifth race win in a row, Staring now has 191 points to Maxwell's 167.5 and Allerton's 133, with Giles fourth on 128.5.
Superbike Race One:
1 Bryan Staring (Honda)
2 Wayne Maxwell (Honda)
3 Glenn Allerton (Honda)
4 Shawn Giles (Suzuki)
5 Scott Charlton (Suzuki)
6 Robbie Bugden (Suzuki)
7 Craig Coxhell (BMW)
8 Shannon Johnson (KTM)
9 Craig McMartin (Ducati)
10 Kris McLaren (Honda)