REIGNING British champion James Lodge was instantly back to winning ways as he began the defence of his 125cc title.

The Huddersfield racer, with a new team behind him, made light of suspension problems in practise to win the first race of the British 125GP championship season at Brands Hatch

“It was a great start to the season for me, and to start the year with a win with brand new team is fantastic,” said Manchester University student Lodge.

“After winning the title last year with only one win, I have set out this year to win as many races as possible and after this result I know I can challenge for more wins.”

The first lap of the race was chaos with Taylor Mackenzie, son of ex-British champion Niall, crashing out on the first corner.

Lodge, who had been third on the grid, stayed out of trouble but was fifth after the first lap.

However, he steadily made his way my through the to third place.

On lap eight Lodge made his move to pass Rob Guiver, last year’s championship runner up, going into the Paddock Hill bend, and then went outside leader Fraser Rogers at Clearways to take the lead.

From there on Lodge cruised home with no challenges and won the race by 3.5 seconds over Guiver, with Rogers seven seconds behind.

“I am riding with a totally new team, run by my chief mechanic from last year when I rode for KRP and I feel we have more control of the setup of the bike,” explained Lodge. “I was already happier with the bike and team after pre-season testing, and I feel it is the package I need to defend the championship.”

For brother Jonathan, riding with the backing of Manchester Road-based Earnshaws Motorcycles, the weekend was not so happy as he was left 29th on the grid for the main race.

A shredded tyre in pre-practice was the first setback and split qualifying sessions did not help his cause and Jonathan said: “ Given that the class with the bikes being much the same it is tough.

“A second pretty much covers the difference in lap times, so it is hard to make up ground, but I was unlucky with a few things and I am just hoping that my luck changes for the better and that we can improve in the next meeting at Thruxton.”