The Penrith-based PBM Racing Team endured varying fortunes at round three of the MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship held at Oulton Park in Cheshire this May bank holiday weekend but still came away with a win and a podium.
Leading the way with a fantastic victory was Scotsman Stuart Easton who took a dramatic win in today's second 18 lap race following on his fourth place finish in the opening encounter but for team-mate Shane 'Shakey' Byrne, his podium in race one was followed by being taken out by a crashing Ryuichi Kiyonari in the latter stages of race two when challenging for the win.
It was Easton who had the better start position for today's opening race in third place on the grid with reigning champion Byrne two places further back. At the end of the first lap, it was Sittingbourne rider Byrne who had moved up to third with Easton, from Hawick, in fourth. As the race progressed, eventually it was four-times champion Shakey who grabbed the final rostrum position with Easton right in his wheel tracks in fourth.
Easton was again in third placed on the grid for the second race with Byrne in fourth and both were part of a terrific five-rider battle for the lead for the majority of the 18 laps. Byrne overcame a relatively poor start, which saw him back in fifth at the end of the first lap, to move into second on lap four and although he briefly hit the front at half race distance, it was regular sparring partner Ryuichi Kiyonari who led for much of the race. However, in the closing stages it looked as if Byrne was going to turn the tables but it all went wrong on lap 16 when Kiyonari overcooked it on the brakes going into Hizzy's and crashed out, taking Shakey with him.
Easton, who had sat in third place for much of the race, duly took over in the lead and despite coming under intense pressure from James Ellison and Josh Brookes on the final lap, he held on for his first Superbike win in five years. The results from the two races mean that Ellison now leads the championship with Byrne eight points adrift in second and Easton holding on to a strong fourth.
The third PBM team member, Ian Hutchinson, was having his final outing prior to the International road racing season which gets underway next week with the North West 200, and had another profitable weekend taking 23rd and 24th places from the two races.
Shane Byrne: "The temperature on race day threw a bit of a spanner in the works as the harder tyre works better in cooler conditions and with the track temperature going up considerably today it made for an interesting first race. It was a difficult race but I managed to take third and the team did a mega job so we were able to look at the data and make a few changes for race two. I felt a lot stronger and even though there was nothing between the five of us, I felt good going into the last few laps. Kiyo made a small mistake which resulted in both of us crashing but these things happen in racing and no one will be more disappointed than Kiyo so it's onwards and upwards to the next round."
Stuart Easton: "With a fourth and first from the two races, it's been a good weekend all round and whilst I was a little bit fortunate to take the win after Shakey and Kiyo went down, we were all evenly matched and we were all looking to put moves on each other. I'd got by Shakey in the race already and although Kiyo was quick out of the corners he was also holding us up in some areas. I feel like I'm riding well and my side of the garage is working well but there's still room for improvement. I've picked up some podium credits this weekend as well so I'll keep taking my chances when they come and look to maintain my consistency.”
Ian Hutchinson: "It's been another good weekend for me and it's been the perfect preparation for the road racing season. I've done more competitive riding than any other season, putting in more laps than ever before at all of the circuits and setting personal best laps everywhere too so I can't have asked for any more. It's quite a fine line riding fast but staying out of trouble as well but I've achieved everything I wanted and can't wait for the North West 200 and TT.”
Paul Bird, Team Owner: "Oulton isn't always the best circuit for the Kawasaki but we've been strong all weekend and are looking strong from a championship perspective too. We've got both riders running at the front and are the only team to have two riders in the top six at present so I'm feeling pretty happy. There was a possibility of a 1-2 in the second race so Shakey's crash was unfortunate and Kiyo will be as disappointed as anyone. We'd set Stuart the target of race wins this season so to achieve that at round three is brilliant. We've also given Hutchy the perfect foundation for the roads and he's in the perfect frame of mind so we're all looking forward to that part of our season now.”
MCE British Superbike Championship - Race One (18 laps)
1 Tommy Bridewell (BMW)
2 Josh Brookes (Yamaha)
3 Shane Byrne (PBM Kawasaki)
4 Stuart Easton (PBM Kawasaki)
5 Ryuichi Kiyonari (BMW)
6 James Ellison (Kawasaki)
23 Ian Hutchinson (PBM Kawasaki)
MCE British Superbike Championship - Race Two (18 laps)
1 Stuart Easton (PBM Kawasaki)
2 James Ellison (Kawasaki)
3 Josh Brookes (Yamaha)
4 Michael Laverty (BMW)
5 Jason O'Halloran (Honda)
6 Howie Mainwaring-Smart (Kawasaki)
24 Ian Hutchinson (PBM Kawasaki)
DNF Shane Byrne (PBM Kawasaki)
Championship standings (after three rounds)
1 Ellison 109pts
2 Byrne 101
3 Brookes 94
4 Easton 80
5 Bridewell 53
6 O'Halloran 42
Image courtesy of Jon Jessop Photography: Stuart Easton on the podium at Oulton Park this weekend.