Round seven of the 2017 MCE British Superbike Championship proved challenging for Be WiserDucati Racing Team riders Shane Byrne and Glenn Irwin who couldn’t muster a podium between them but at least Byrne retained the series lead following the action at Thruxton.
With Saturday’s qualifying session proving disappointing for Paul Bird’s Penrith-based team, both riders were keen to make amends on race day and Shakey went into the races in a lot better frame of mind having been quickest in the morning warm-up session.
The five-times and defending champion from Sittingbourne made a good start in race one from row two of the grid aboard the factory-backed Be Wiser Ducati Panigale R and was soon involved in the battle for the lead. Following a safety car intervention, Byrne continued to dispute the lead with Josh Brookes, Peter Hickman and Jake Dixon but try as he might he wasn’t able to get close enough to make a pass and he had to settle for fourth at the end of the 18 laps.
Byrne started the second race from the front row and he ran comfortably inside the top three for the first half of the race, including leading for three laps. However, as the race entered the second half, it was clear he was in trouble as problems with the rear tyre saw him drop down the order and he eventually pulled in to retire on lap 15.
It wasn’t any better for team-mate Glenn Irwin who, having finished a disappointing 20th in qualifying, was also hoping to turn things around on race day and a top ten position in the morning warm-up gave him confidence.
However, after taking avoiding action following Billy McConnell crashing out in the early stages, the Carrickfergus rider could only manage 20th place at the end of the 18-lap race. Starting race two from 14th on the grid, Irwin battled hard and despite carrying the legacy of his Knockhill injuries still, he eventually took a solid ninth place at the end of 18 hard fought laps, although a penalty for exceeding track limits saw him relegated to 11th.
Shane Byrne: “I’ve been building up to this weekend ever since Knockhill and it’s probably been the meeting I’ve been looking forward to the most especially after what we achieved here in 2016. The last two meetings have gone really well and we expected more of the same here so I was obviously disappointed with fourth in race one. We made a big change with the bike for the second race and it was the best it had been all weekend. I felt so, so comfortable and was ready to check out but then the rear tyre went downhill rapidly and I couldn’t do anything about it. I had no option but to retire but I’m still leading the championship and have only lost the odd point to my rivals in terms of Podium Points so we’ll roll on to the next round.”
Glenn Irwin: “There’s not much to say about the first race but we turned the bike upside down forrace two and went back to last year’s settings which certainly helped and at least I could get stuck in. I was still having problems with grip as a lot of riders were because it’s so fast and abrasive around here but at least it's a step forward and closer to where we need to be. I’m getting stronger and fitter all the time so I’m confident we’ll be able to give an even better account of ourselves next time out.”
Phil Borley, Technical Director: “It’s not been the meeting we hoped for and we have not got the results we wanted. Having been so strong here in 2016, we’ve struggled this time around and will need to look into why the tyre life just wasn’t there this time around. The advantage we had in 2016 was a disadvantage in 2017 although Shakey did a good job in race one to take fourth, we didn’t score any Podium Points but we’re still in a strong position in terms of the championship. Glenn didn’t have a good setting in race one which affected the rear tyre even more but we made a lot of changes for race two and it was good to see him back inside the points and challenging for the positions that we know he should.”
MCE British Superbike Championship race one (18 laps)
1 Josh Brookes (Yamaha)
2 Peter Hickman (BMW)
3 Jake Dixon (Kawasaki)
4 Shane Byrne (Be Wiser Ducati)
5 Christian Iddon (BMW)
6 Jason O’Halloran (Honda)
20 Glenn Irwin (Be Wiser Ducati)
MCE British Superbike Championship race two (18 laps)
1 Peter Hickman (BMW)
2 Jake Dixon (Kawasaki)
3 Leon Haslam (Kawasaki)
4 Christian Iddon (BMW)
5 Jason O’Halloran (Honda)
6 Martin Jessopp (BMW)
11 Glenn Irwin (Be Wiser Ducati)
DNF Shane Byrne (Be Wiser Ducati)
Championship standings (after seven rounds)
1 Byrne 203pts
2 Haslam 184
3 Hickman 164
4 Mossey 161
5 O’Halloran 154
= Brookes 154
11 Irwin 70
Pictures courtesy of Jon Jessop Photography: #67 Shane 'Shakey' Byrne and #2 Glenn Irwin in action at Thruxton.