Despite the changeable weather conditions which greeted the Penrith-based Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki Team at Cadwell Park this bank holiday weekend, triple British Superbike Champion Shane 'Shakey' Byrne put in two faultless rides to take a pair of second place finishes and in doing so, extended his lead at the top of the MCE British Superbike Championship.
With glorious sunny conditions for practice and qualifying at round eight of the series, Londoner Byrne slid off in the final free practice session before scorching to his fifth pole position of the season aboard the Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R with the fastest ever lap on two wheels around the Lincolnshire circuit.
With another massive crowd in attendance, race day dawned with the threat of rain and just as the riders assembled for the opening race, drizzle started to fall causing a short delay. Eventually, the race got underway in damp conditions and 37-year-old Byrne, who now lives on the Isle of Sheppey, hit the front from the start.
As the race progressed, Byrne came under pressure from Tommy Bridewell, who nipped ahead at the start of the tenth lap, which proved vital as out came the red flags soon after. What it meant was with Bridewell being ahead by 0.005 seconds at the start of the lap, he was awarded victory with Byrne having to settle for second place to claim his 16th podium of the season.
The drizzle had turned into heavy rain for the second race later in the day and it was subsequently cut to 15 laps. Byrne was again at the forefront of the action and with main title rivals Josh Brookes and Ryuichi Kiyonari both crashing out, Shakey knew that staying upright was crucial. With Peter Hickman going on to win the race, Shakey put in a faultless performance to take his second runner-up spot of the day and extend his championship lead further.
Team-mate Stuart Easton qualified in 14th for the opening race and the Hawick rider was able to make good strides forward throughout the opening race whereby the reigning British Supersport Champion was rewarded with a top ten finish in ninth. The result kept his hopes of a top six Showdown placing alive but his title aspirations took a severe dent when the 30-year-old Scot was forced out of race two at half distance on the Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R due to visibility problems.
Shane Byrne: "I was a bit annoyed with the result in the first race and it was a tough one to take on the chin. I led every lap of the race and whenever anyone overtook me, I was able to get back past them straightaway. I hit a false neutral coming out of Barn which allowed Tommy to get by me and with the race being stopped a lap later, him getting across the line before me saw him get the win. Conditions were even more difficult for the second race and it was probably the longest 15 laps I've ever had. Peter and I had similar pace but when he started to edge away a bit, I started to look at the bigger picture and with both Josh and Kiyo out, second was a really good finish so I'm happy."
Stuart Easton: "It was difficult in race one as it was drizzling with rain and we were all out on slick tyres so it was pretty tricky. However, starting from 14th and moving up to ninth was pretty pleasing and not too bad a result whilst my lap times were fairly competitive. I was hopeful of scoring another top ten finish in the second race, which was soaking wet, and I was running on the edge of the top ten again when I ran into problems with my vision. It was difficult enough as it was, so with poor vision I had little option other than to retire."
Paul Bird, Team Owner: "It was a great day for Shakey who claimed a load more Podium Points and increased the lead over his rivals who had a poor weekend. His consistency this year has been amazing and he rode two brilliant races in difficult conditions by using his head. Stuart's performances were disappointing so we need to look and see how we can improve at Donington Park."
After eight rounds, the Championship table sees Byrne leading Josh Brookes by 96 points, increasing his important Podium Credits tally to 56, a lead of 21 going into the next round in two weeks' time at Donington Park.
MCE British Superbike Championship Race One - 10 laps
1 Tommy Bridewell (Yamaha)
2 Shane Byrne (Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki)
3 Chris Walker (Kawasaki)
4 Josh Brookes (Yamaha)
5 Josh Waters (Suzuki)
6 Peter Hickman (Honda)
9 Stuart Easton (Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki)
MCE British Superbike Championship Race Two - 15 laps
1 Peter Hickman (Honda)
2 Shane Byrne (Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki)
3 Tommy Bridewell (Yamaha)
4 Gary Mason (Kawasaki)
5 Josh Waters (Kawasaki)
6 Jon Kirkham (Kawasaki)
DNF Stuart Easton (Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki)
Championship Points (after eight rounds)
1 Byrne 353pts
2 Brookes 257
3 Kiyonari 202
4 Bridewell 183
5 Linfoot 170
6 Walker 160
Image courtesy of Jon Jessop Photography: Shane Byrne in action at Cadwell Park