Josh Brookes returned to winning ways in the MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship in the opening race at Thruxton, setting a commanding pace, but behind the war for four titles raged between Shane 'Shakey' Byrne and Ryuichi Kiyonari in the closing stages.
On the opening lap Quattro Plant Bournemouth Kawasaki's Dan Linfoot led the race for the first time in his career with Brookes and Byrne in close contention. The Milwaukee Yamaha rider was soon on the attack and was trying each and every way to get ahead of Linfoot, but he was riding hard at the Hampshire circuit and wasn't giving up without a fight.
Brookes had to wait until the seventh lap before he could make a move stick on Linfoot, with a lunge down the inside into Club, cutting back and defending on the exit so his Quattro Plant Bournemouth Kawasaki rival had no chance of making an instant comeback.
Kiyonari had been ninth over the opening laps but he had been carving his way through the field and was closing on the leading trio of Brookes, Linfoot and Byrne after getting ahead of the second pack which included Tommy Bridewell, Chris Walker and pole-sitter Jakub Smrz who had to make up ground after a bad start.
Byrne was aware of the closing Buildbase BMW and he made a move on Linfoot at the Complex on the ninth lap, but by that stage the Japanese ace was on the back wheel of the pair as Brookes had edged out an advantage.
Linfoot was soon under fire from Kiyonari and he made a decisive move at Club with two laps remaining to set his sights on stealing second place from Byrne. As Brookes held a four second lead the intense battle was then on between Byrne and Kiyonari. Byrne led on the last lap but Kiyonari made his first attack at Cobb as he pushed the Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki rider back to third. The triple champions were side-by-side on the run from Church and up to Woodham Hill for the final time.
Byrne had his last chance to make a move into Club which he did with a strong move on the brakes, the Kent ace anchored up the Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki to make the chicane and despite Kiyonari looking for an opportunity to come back he had to settle for third on the drag to the line.
Linfoot scored his best result with a strong fourth place ahead of the second pack which was led by Bridewell on the second of the Milwaukee Yamahas ahead of Smrz, Walker and Hopkins. Bathams BMW's Michael Rutter and Patric Muff completed the top ten.
See highlights from Thruxton on ITV4 on Wednesday evening