By NICK McGRATH
SPRING Terrace ace Ben Burke is assured of a top three Metzeler National Superstock 600 Championship series finish after earning his sixth podium of the 2012 season last weekend at Donington Park.
Burke finished second behind Lee Jackson as the series's second consecutive red-flag incident brought a premature end to another captivating race.
In the washup of the carnage, Burke earned second position to extend his lead over James Rose from eight points to 18 with just the penultimate round of the series at Silverstone and the year's finale at Brands Hatch to come.
"I was very pleased with how I rode over the whole weekend and extending my championship lead was a bonus," Burke said.
The make up of the final three is yet to be determined, however, Burke (174 points) looks in the box seat to claim a maiden Superstock 600 championship ahead of both Rose (156) and British sensation Jackson (154).
It'll be a remarkable rise to the top for Burke, in just his second year in the British superbike championship.
Burke stormed to favouritism after injuries cruelled the 2012 campaigns of James Lodge and Jake Dixon in the previous round at Caldwell Park.
But their loss has been Burke's gain.
At Donington Park over the weekend, Burke and Jackson fought it out at the top of the time charts in a blistering start to the 14-lapper 4.02 kilometre Leicestershire circuit.
In a show of the speed of the top echelon of Superstock 600 riders, the top five finishers were all under the lap record.
But in the end it was Jackson who made the most of it.
The Brit made the defining move of the race on the track's Old Hairpin on lap seven, with a red flag incident bringing a halt to the race two laps later, with his nearest championship rival Rose down in sixth.
"I had a great weekend at Donington Park," Burke said.
"I was on the pace pretty quick. It was clear that the lap record was going to tumble with Jackson and I pushing it to the limit every lap."
The penultimate round of the 2012 series will be held at Silverstone at the end of September.