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Mark Cheetham (Highsparks Motorsport) claimed a decisive first victory in wet conditions in the opening Ducati Cup race at Assen today. Starting 8th on the grid, Cheetham got a fantastic start and had soon passed Levi Day to take the lead on the opening lap.

At the end of his 2nd lap Cheetham had already built up an impressive 4 second lead, which he went on to double before crossing the chequered flag.

Cheetham’s teammate Phil Atkinson brought his 959 Panigale home in 2nd place, with Sean Neary (Zoek Racing Team) claiming the final podium.

The Highsparks Motorsport team had further reason to celebrate with their rider Jordan Gill finishing as the top 899 rider in 7th place.

Atkinson and Neary's podium finishes see them leapfrog the absent Rob Guiver to take 2nd and 3rd in the championship standings behind the 2017 Champion Joe Collier, with 180 and 177 points respectively. Snapping at their heels in the final race of the season tomorrow will be Boast Plumbing’s Jonathan Railton (171.5) and Levi Day (165.5).

Race 2 is scheduled to start at 2.05pm on Sunday. Josh Wainwright (Ducati Romford / Hyside Racing) lines up in pole once again – a notable achievement considering this is only his 2nd round onboard a 959 Panigale. Highspark Motorsports’ Cheetham and Atkinson lock out the front row, with Neary starting just behind them at the front of Row 2.

Mark Cheetham (Highsparks Motorsport #21) – 1st
“I seem to be the rainmaster. I’ve got an awesome setting with the Mupo suspension. I feel so confident on it, I could just go and do anything with it. But I must admit, I don’t use my pit board often. And about halfway through I looked and it said 5. So, I thought, 5 second lead, that’s all right. And then it went to 4 and then 3 and I thought Christ, but that was the laps to go - I need to get used to using the pit board! It kept pushing me on, I did have a couple of quite big slides on about Lap 6, which was in the fast corners as well, which was interesting. Really happy, this is what I’ve dreamed of, getting a 1st in the Ducati TriOptions and it’s happened.

Phil Atkinson (Highsparks Motorsport #7) – 2nd
“Obviously, Mark was real fast on the first lap and he got past Levi Day and then the gap was gone. I spent a lap trying to get past Levi. Once I got past Levi, the gap to Mark stayed the same. But Mega result for the team, for the championship. Just like to say a big thanks to everyone who’s got me this far and hopefully we can do the same tomorrow.”

Sean Neary (Zoek Racing Team #10) – 3rd
”I was riding pretty cautiously in that race. It’s annoying when you think about the championship when you get this far and you are in the hunt and you have to play it cautiously. Cheetham was gone and fair play to him he was absolutely flying and Phil had a really good pace too and in the end, I settled for third. I am happy with that and it’s all up for grabs tomorrow and we will have to go for it, so fingers crossed.”