BRENDAN Mallinder drew first blood in the GP1 Elite battle at Snetterton this weekend as he beat Mike Norbury to the race one win.
The reigning champ pipped the roads ace after a 10-lap scrap where they were never more than a few bike lengths apart.
After delays with weather playing havoc, the race was cut to 10 laps as pole-sitter Hickman suffered a difficult start, bogging down off the line and leaving Mallinder to take the lead.
The 2020 title holder finished the first lap ahead of Norbury – who made up six places on the start – as Robert Smith, Sam Osborne and Jordan Rushby tucked in behind while Hickman dropped down to seventh.
Norbury stuck his wheel ahead of Mallinder on lap two only to be shoved back, but the Oliver’s Mount Gold Cup winner hit the front again before Mallinder took the place back.
As the leading duo stretched an eight-second gap over Rob Smith, it was a nip-and-tuck battle between them for the first honours of 2021 as Norbury retook the lead with four laps to go.
But the scrap continued as the laps wound down and while Norbury looked to be on for the win, Mallinder stole it back on the final lap to take the win by 0.529sec.
Smith bagged third some 24sec further back, only just beating Dom Herbertson and Hickman, who rounded out the top five.