The Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki Team continued their brilliant start to the 2014 MCE British Superbike Championship season at Oulton Park this Bank Holiday weekend with triple MCE BSB champion Shane Byrne taking his third win of the season.
Having taken a double victory at Brands Hatch over Easter, the 37-year-old Londoner was in confident mood going into round two and having set a time under the lap record in Sunday's Datatag Extreme qualifying session, 'Shakey' grabbed the lead in the opening 18-lap race on lap one.
Despite a safety car period which closed the pack up, he pressed home his advantage aboard his Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki ZX-10R Ninja before being hauled in by rival Josh Brookes. However Byrne had the situation under control and crossed the line in front of the Australian to take his 54th MCE BSB career victory.
Hoping for more of the same in the second encounter around the picturesque 2.69-mile Cheshire circuit, Shakey had to play second fiddle to Brookes and although they were never more than a couple of machine lengths apart, he couldn't manage an overtaking manoeuvre and duly crossed the line in second place. The results mean Byrne now leads the series by 30 points going into the next round at Snetterton next month.
Team-mate Stuart Easton continued to show fine form and he was consistently amongst the top six during free practice and qualifying, heading into the races in confident form. In the opening encounter, the 30-year-old Hawick rider immediately slotted into fourth place and he battled with Chris Walker, Dan Linfoot and Tommy Bridewell during the race, eventually crossing the line in a solid fifth place.
It was a similar story in the second 18-lap encounter as the reigning Motorpoint British Supersport champion established himself amongst the top five early on. Here he remained until the fifth lap when he moved up to fourth and, having successfully seen off the challenge of Bridewell, he was comfortable in the position for the remainder of the race, finishing over two seconds clear of his Yamaha rival to record his best result of the season so far aboard the Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki ZX-10R Ninja.
Shane Byrne: "I'm over the moon with first and second places on the Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki. The first race was all about me leading and the second likewise for Josh. It's never easy being out front on your own but in the first race I found a good rhythm and was comfortable as I opened up a nice little gap. With four laps to go, the gap started to come down with Josh closing more and more with each lap but I just had enough of a margin to bring the bike home. In race two, Josh got the hole shot and led all the way and whilst there were a couple of places where I could get a good run on him and close up, I just couldn't quite get close enough to make a pass."
Stuart Easton: "It's been a good weekend and a good start to the season and I'm more than satisfied with four, top six finishes from the first four races on my return to the MCE BSB series. It's nice to have established myself in the top six straightaway and prove we're going to be Showdown contenders so I just need to keep chipping away now and work on closing the gap to the leaders. As a racer you always want to be spraying the champagne so that's my target for when the series resumes in June but I can now look forward to the North West 200 and getting back on to the roads. We're all hoping for some good weather and if we get that, we'll all have some great racing and some great craic."
Paul Bird, Team Owner: "If anyone had offered me those results at the start of the weekend, I'd have snatched their hands off. Oulton Park has always been a very strong track for the Yamaha so for Shakey to win race one and come so close in race two was a fantastic achievement and to leave with a 30 point lead is a bonus. Stuart suffered from arm pump for much of the weekend so he could have been stronger but we will settle for him scoring important points to claim fourth in the table. It's job done as far as I'm concerned and the team has done a great job."
MCE British Superbike Championship Race One (18 laps)
1 Shane Byrne (Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki)
2 Josh Brookes (Yamaha)
3 James Ellison (Kawasaki)
4 Tommy Bridewell (Yamaha)
5 Stuart Easton (Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki)
6 Dan Linfoot (Kawasaki)
MCE British Superbike Championship Race Two (18 laps)
1 Josh Brookes (Yamaha)
2 Shane Byrne (Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki)
3 James Ellison (Kawasaki)
4 Stuart Easton (Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki)
5 Tommy Bridewell (Yamaha)
6 James Westmoreland (BMW)
Championship standings (after two rounds)
1 Byrne 95pts
2 Brookes 65
3 Ellison 64
4 Easton 44
5 Bridewell 40
6 Walker 39
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 celebrating his win on the podium at Oulton Park