Harry Payne made a near-perfect start to his season with French passenger Kevin Rousseau at the weekend.

Aboard their Yamaha-engined ARS Steinhausen Racing outfit the pair qualified in pole position for what was round one of the French Superbike Championship at Le Mans.

Leading race one on the Bugatti circuit they were forced to slow considerably from three-quarters distance after the bike suffered a technical problem.

They somehow managed to complete the last three laps with the motor running on three cylinders to secure a podium. Their pace before the mechanical was quicker than that of the winning pace of last year’s world champs opener.

The sprint race took place at 8.05am on Sunday morning following a late-night engine change.

Held in full wet conditions, Payne and Rousseau managed to win the restarted five-lapper by 16.542sec.

The appalling weather continued, but the Anglo-French pairing led the main race from start to finish later in the day, crossing the finish line 27.67s in front of the next team.

l Thanking all his sponsors, as well as family and friends helping from afar, the Ballasalla-based driver now has a little under four weeks to prepare for the next race/test weekend at Brno in Czech Republic.