Byrne At The Double At Brands Hatch MCE BSB Opener

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki Team got their 2014 MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship season off to a perfect start this Easter weekend at Brands Hatch in Kent with triple MCE BSB champion Shane 'Shakey' Byrne taking a double victory and team-mate Stuart Easton grabbing a pair of sixth place finishes.

After a strong showing in the dry free practice sessions, Byrne had to fight his way through from an unfamiliar 13th on the grid in today's opening race after heavy rain in Sunday's Datatag Extreme qualifying session left his Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki ZX-10R Ninja back on row five but a superb start saw him up to seventh place at the end of the opening lap. Steadily advancing forward, Shakey was up to second at half race distance and rapidly closing on race leader Chris Walker when the red flag came out due to an oil spillage on lap 17.

Restarted over the shorter distance of 12 laps, Byrne lined up on the front row of the grid and whilst it was Walker who again led in the early stages, Shakey seized the lead on the fourth lap and extended his lead each lap to eventually cross the line 1.6 seconds clear to record his 52nd MCE BSB win of his career.

Starting from the front row of the grid for the second 30-lap race, once again held in the fine and sunny conditions, the 37-year-old Londoner made the perfect start and although he led from start to finish he was under pressure throughout and had to call upon all his experience to keep rivals Josh Brookes and James Ellison at bay as he claimed an 11th career double.

Team-mate Easton marked his return to the series with two strong rides after a disappointing qualifying which saw him way down the grid. Back in 23rd place initially, the 30-year-old had moved up to 12th when the first race was stopped and in the re-run he advanced further eventually taking a fine sixth place aboard the Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki ZX-10R Ninja.

In the second race, the Hawick rider started from the second row of the grid and was subsequently challenging for the podium from the outset as he slotted into second place behind Byrne. The race for the three podium positions was extremely fraught with only one second covering the top six and as the race wore on, arm pump caused the reigning Motorpoint British Supersport champion to slip back and he had to settle for his second sixth place of the day.

Shane Byrne: "It's been the perfect start to the year and a massive team effort and I'm really proud of all the guys in the team. Conditions in qualifying were very difficult and starting on row five wasn't where we wanted to be but I knew we were strong in the dry and I'd moved up to second when the first race was stopped. It made things slightly easier in the re-run and I knew it was important to get going early as Chris would be fast again, especially as he was on a different tyre, but once I took the lead I just chipped away each lap and kept it clean and tidy.

"Starting from the front row for the second race was the ideal place to be and I had a bit of a strategy in that I wanted to get away from the start as I knew Josh Brookes would be able to come through the pack. At mid-race distance the guys reeled me in a bit so I just rode as hard as I could and tried not to make any mistakes. The Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki ZX-10R Ninja is working really well for me and I like the way I'm able to ride it so hopefully I'll have a similar feeling next time out at Oulton Park."

Stuart Easton: "It's been a solid start to the season and two sixths is a good way to start on my return to the class although it would have been nice if I could have held on for a podium in the second race. The more it went on though the more my arm tightened up and I was hanging on a bit towards the end, particularly on the brakes, otherwise I think a podium could have been on the cards. It felt really good to be sitting behind Shakey and it felt fairly comfortable so I think that bodes well for the rest of the season. The bike feels really good and I've shown I've got the pace so I'm only going to go forward from here and get stronger and stronger."

Paul Bird, Team Owner: "What a fantastic way to start the season with Shakey taking a double victory at his home track, especially after we had some problems in qualifying in the wet. The team worked brilliantly and proved that we are serious about wanting our title back. Stuart made things difficult for himself in qualifying but once again proved what he could do in the dry and now he's got a meeting on a Superbike under his belt, he'll come stronger. A great day and once again, my team and riders have done me proud, roll on our local round at Oulton Park in two weeks' time."

The results see Byrne lead the title race for the Penrith-based team on a maximum 50 points, 18 ahead of James Ellison with the Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki of Easton in joint fourth. It was the first time since 2001 that a rider has won the opening two races in the MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship, the last being John Reynolds in 2001 who went on to take the title that year.

MCE British Superbike Championship Race One (12 laps)
1 Shane Byrne (Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki)
2 Chris Walker (Kawasaki)
3 James Ellison (Kawasaki)
4 Ben Wilson (Kawasaki)
5 John Hopkins (Suzuki)
6 Stuart Easton (Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki)

MCE British Superbike Championship Race Two (30 laps)
1 Shane Byrne (Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki)
2 Josh Brookes (Yamaha)
3 James Ellison (Kawasaki)
4 Ryuichi Kiyonari (BMW)
5 Chris Walker (Kawasaki)
6 Stuart Easton (Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki)

MCE BSB Championship standings (after one round)
1 Byrne 50pts
2 Ellison 32
3 Walker 31
4 Easton 20
= Brookes 20
6 Wilson 19

The Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki MCE British Superbike Championship Team runs alongside the PBM MotoGP Team with riders Michael Laverty and Broc Parkes. Additionally, Paul Bird plans a full campaign in the REIS BTRDA Rally Series as well as selected International events in his Ford Focus WRC07. Both bike racing teams are sporting the colours of British Racing Green in deference to the team's proud British heritage.

Image courtesy of Jon Jessop Photography: Shane Byrne in action at Brands Hatch

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