Laverty takes victory as Hopkins beats Hill
Michael Laverty holds off Josh Brookes for his third win of the year, while John Hopkins resists a charging Tommy Hill to increase his lead to 11 points.
Michael Laverty has won his third MCE British Superbike Championship race of the season, but all eyes were on a thrilling duel between title protagonists John Hopkins and Tommy Hill, one which came down to the very final corner.
Starting from second position on the grid behind pole sitter Josh Brookes, Laverty got the better start to lead into Paddock Hill Bend, with Brookes slotting into second place and Hopkins holding onto third.
Hill, however, got a tardy getaway and was beaten to fourth by Michael Rutter, before an error into Surtees dropped him behind James Ellison in sixth.
A potentially crucial moment for the championship, while Hill would be past Ellison and Rutter within two corners on lap six, his time behind the pair had allowed the leaders, including Hopkins, to pull away.
Even so, Hopkins was not able to stay with the top two, Laverty and Brookes setting a fierce pace up front as they diced for the win. Indeed, though Brookes was able to break the Brands Hatch GP lap record, he was being given scant opportunity to get past the Swan Yamaha ahead.
It is how they would remain throughout the race, Brookes pushing Laverty hard, but the Ulsterman refusing to make a mistake as he crossed the line a very satisfied winner. Despite his triumph though, Laverty remains 35 points adrift of Hopkins with two races and 50 points remaining.
As the Laverty and Brookes cruised to first and second in formation, the battle for third was coming alive in the closing stages as Hill made remarkably swift headway into Hopkins's seemingly comfortable advantage.
Indeed, a series of fast laps allowed Hill to close the gap of more than two seconds with five laps remaining, though the Swan Yamaha man would also find an inspired Ellison has tailed him to add another dimension to his challenge.
Lining up Hopkins for a move on the penultimate lap, Hill slipped through into Paddock Hill Bend, a perfectly judged pass as he just held it together on the exit. However, Hopkins would show his fighting spirit by landing a re-pass at Surtees and moving back into third place.
With the emphasis switching between the two, Hopkins kept it tidy heading into the final lap, while Hill found himself closer to Ellison than his rival.
Nonetheless, Hill fought back over the course of the final lap to plant a very determined pass at the final corner into Clark Curve. Successful for a brief moment, Hill couldn't stop himself from running out wide, a cool Hopkins simply diving back beneath him to out-drag his adversary to the finish line.
A potentially crucial result for Hopkins, he has increased his lead to 11 points over Hill, though the Yamaha rider will be encouraged with his far superior second-half pace compared to Hopkins.
Ellison maintained his close company to finish in a fine fifth, well ahead of sixth place Shane Byrne, who looked like would be a factor early on as he quickly moved into the top ten from his 19th place starting position, only to get involved in a race-long battle with Michael Rutter and Jon Kirkham. Byrne's sixth place also means he has been eliminated from the title reckoning.
Rutter and Kirkham made it seventh and eighth, ahead of top EVO rider Graeme Gowland, while Martin Jessopp completed the top ten for Rapid Bathams Ducati. Tommy Bridewell, Chris Walker, Ian Lowry, James Westmoreland and Alex Lowes completed the points' paying positions, with Ryuichi Kiyonari in 17th.