Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne scored an important podium to keep his title chances alive whilst enduringcontrasting fortunes this weekend at Assen in The Netherlands where the historic track hosted round 11 of the MCE British Superbike Championship.
Aboard the factory-backed Be Wiser Ducati Panigale R, the five times and defending champion overcame a pair of crashes during yesterday’s wet Datatag Extreme Qualifying to start today’s opening race from row six of the grid but the Sittingbourne-based Londoner was soon on the case in the dry conditions.
Knowing he needed to maximise his points haul in the second of the Showdown rounds, race one saw Byrne battle with the leading bunch before a pass on James Ellison netted him second place, as main title rival Leon Haslam took the win.
However, with the fastest lap of the race, Byrne started the second 18-lap race from pole position and he made it count as he grabbed the holeshot to lead into turn one. From there, Shakey led and started to pull a gap but a mistake going into turn one saw him run off track and try as he might, he was unable to make up any more places with fifth place the end result.
Team-mate Glenn Irwin also suffered disappointment in the wet qualifying session which left him down in 21st on the grid but he too was able to advance forward in the first race albeit not quite at the same time rate. He managed to work his way up to 12th with six laps remaining but was pushed back to 14th at the chequered flag.
The Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland rider was 13th on the grid for the second race and for much of the race he was locked in battle with a group of riders battling for 12th once more. He didn’t quite have the pace on the second Be Wiser Ducati Panigale R to make any overtakes and finished in 14th once more.
Going into the triple-header finale at his local Brands Hatch track in two weeks’ time, Byrne is third in the standings, 33 points behind series leader Haslam.
Shane Byrne: “We were able to take a lot of positives out of the first race and to come through from 16th on the grid to second was pleasing. The one person I’m focused on at the moment is Leon as he’s leading the championship so getting involved with riders not part of the Showdown made life difficult. I should have been really happy with second place but the reality was I still didn’t beat Leon. Starting race two from pole made my life easier although I knew it would still be tough but I gave myself the best possible chance by leading for the majority of the race. The pace dropped when James (Ellison) passed me and I tried to fight back but made a mistake and dropped back to fifth so all I can do is go to Brands Hatch and do my very best. If that gets us the championship, then great, if it doesn’t, no-one can say I didn’t try.”
Glenn Irwin: “Being so far back of the grid for the first race meant it was always going to be hard but Iwas pleased to have fought my way back up to 12th. In the last few laps though, I started to get a really bad vibration and was powerless to respond so it was a shame to drop back to 14th. The second race was a lot better and although the result still wasn’t very good, our pace was much better. It’s been a testing weekend but I’m continuing to rebuild after all the good work I’d done at the beginning of the year.”
Phil Borley, Technical Director: “It wasn’t quite the day we hoped for and with the plan being to take ten points off Leon, we’ve lost further ground in the title race and have it all to do at the final round. Shakey did everything he possibly could in the first race and although Leon got the win, second place meant we didn’t lose too many points. Everything looked good in the second race but with the riders going three abreast, all three ran in a bit too deep with Shakey coming off worst. It cost him any chance of the win and, more importantly, it lost him more ground to Leon. It’s not all over yet though and it only takes Leon to have one DNF so we’ll keep pushing hard and simply go to Brands with the aim of taking all three wins. We can’t control what Leon does and what will be, will be. For Glenn, a problem with the rear tyre towards the end of the first race gave him a really bad vibration but he had a better run in the second battling with Hopkins and Laverty and at least came away with two points scoring finishes.”
MCE British Superbike Championship race one (18 laps)
1 Leon Haslam (Kawasaki)
2 Shane Byrne (Be Wiser Ducati)
3 James Ellison (Yamaha)
4 Sylvain Guintoli (Suzuki)
5 Josh Brookes (Yamaha)
6 Bradley Ray (Suzuki)
14 Glenn Irwin (Be Wiser Ducati)
MCE British Superbike Championship race two (18 laps)
1 Sylvain Guintoli (Suzuki)
2 Josh Brookes (Yamaha)
3 Leon Haslam (Kawasaki)
4 James Ellison (Yamaha)
5 Shane Byrne (Be Wiser Ducati)
6 Peter Hickman (BMW)
14 Glenn Irwin (Be Wiser Ducati)
Championship standings (after eleven rounds)
1 Haslam 612pts
2 Brookes 580
3 Byrne 579
4 Dixon 558
5 Hickman 549
6 O’Halloran 526
14 Irwin 120
Picture courtesy of Jon Jessop Photography: Shane Byrne (67) and Glenn Irwin (2)