Shane 'Shakey' Byrne kept his title hopes alive with a battling performance at the penultimate round of the 2015 MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship held at a sun-kissed Silverstone today.
Having been announced today as re-signing for the Penrith-based PBM team in MCE BSB for 2016, the four-times British champion was hoping to return to winning ways following a disappointing opening round of the Showdown two weeks ago in Assen.
Aboard the Be Wiser Insurance-backed PBM Kawasaki ZX-10R, the defending champion showed good pace in qualifying although a technical problem in the final session, where a tyre spun on the rim, relegated him to row four of the grid for today's opening 14-lap encounter.
It mattered not as by the second lap of the first race, he was running inside the top six and aided by the fastest lap of the race, the Sittingbourne rider continued to make steady progress through the field and moved into a podium position on lap nine.
Getting stronger as the race progressed, Shakey overhauled championship rival Josh Brookes for second place a lap later and although the Australian responded and ultimately took the race win, Byrne took a fine second place to maintain his bid for an unprecedented fifth title.
Starting from pole position for the second 14-lap race, both Byrne and the team were hopeful of challenging for the race win and it started ideally as he grabbed an early lead. Just like the first race, tyre wear was going to be a factor in the second half of the race and as the grip deteriorated, he slipped back to fifth in the closing stages to lose ground in the title race.
As a result, Byrne is now 47 points adrift of Josh Brookes with just three races remaining, but given the dramatic outcome to last year's title race, whereby leading contender Ryuichi Kiyonari crashed out in practice, Byrne hasn't given up on the title just yet.
New team-mate Danny Buchan, deputising for the injured Stuart Easton, qualified in a solid 12th place for the first race and the second Be Wiser PBM Kawasaki was well to the fore during the early stages of the race, running inside the top ten. However, it all went wrong for the Essex rider when he slid off at Copse on the fourth lap, fortunately without injury.
With the team doing a superb job in rebuilding the bike, Buchan battled hard throughout the second race and although he encountered a few issues as a legacy of the crash, he brought the bike home for 14th and two hard earned points.
Shane Byrne: "Starting from tenth for the first race was a bit rubbish, but Silverstone has a lot of overtaking opportunities so I wasn't too downbeat plus we knew what the problem was. We had a tough start to the weekend, but that's why I like the team so much as they work so hard for me and they gave me a great bike for the race. I dug in as deep as I could and I thought I might have a chance to win but second place was OK. Race two didn't go to plan and now we have a bit of a mountain to climb, but we've not given up just yet and will take it to Josh again at Brands Hatch in two weeks time."
Danny Buchan: "Qualifying went well and with good pace I was confident for race one, but it ended up being a bit of a nightmare as I ran off line and tucked the front. The team did a great job rebuilding the bike and we changed a couple of bits but there were a few issues that were holding me back and if I'd have pushed any harder I'd have crashed again so I brought the bike home for a finish. It wasn't the ideal weekend for me, but we've got three bites of the cherry at Brands Hatch and I'll be looking to end the season on a positive note.”
Phil Borley, Technical Director: "It's been a mixed weekend for Shakey and his qualifying time made it difficult for race one, but he had a strong pace throughout the race and he rode extremely well to take second. With the fastest lap of the race, it gave him a great grid spot for race two and we expected to be challenging for the win, but it didn't pan out that way and he struggled. There was nothing major that had changed with the bike so we're not sure if it was the lower track temperature that caused the grip to drop off. For Danny, he had a good run through practice and we were happy with his performance in qualifying but, unfortunately, he ran slightly wide in the first race which caused him to lose the front. The team rebuilt the bike for race two but a couple of small issues held him back a bit and affected his confidence. But he brought the bike home for some points and he's now had experience on our bike so hopefully he can take that knowledge onto Brands Hatch."
MCE British Superbike Championship race one (14 laps)
1 Josh Brookes (Yamaha)
2 Shane Byrne (PBM Kawasaki)
3 Peter Hickman (BMW)
4 John Hopkins (Ducati)
5 James Ellison (Kawasaki)
6 Michael Laverty (BMW)
DNF Danny Buchan (PBM Kawasaki)
MCE British Superbike Championship race two (14 laps)
1 Josh Brookes (Yamaha)
2 Michael Laverty (BMW)
3 Dan Linfoot (Honda)
4 Christian Iddon (Suzuki)
5 Shane Byrne (PBM Kawasaki)
6 Richard Cooper (BMW
14 Danny Buchan (PBM Kawasaki)
Championship points (after 11 rounds)
1 Brookes 653pts
2 Byrne 606
3 Ellison 573
4 Laverty 553
5 Linfoot 534
6 Bridewell 531
9 Easton 139
13 Buchan 101
Image courtesy of Jon Jessop Photography: Shane Byrne in action at Silverstone