Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne kept his hopes of landing a sixth MCE British Superbike Championship verymuch alive when he romped to his sixth race victory of the season at his local Brands Hatch circuit today.
Aboard the factory-backed Be Wiser Ducati Panigale R, the Sittingbourne-based ace beat off title rivals Josh Brookes and Leon Haslam to land his 20th win around the Kent Grand Prix track and his 83rd victory in BSB to cut Haslam’s advantage to 21 points going into tomorrow’s two races.
Byrne had been in imperious form during free practice, topping the combined timesheets with a lap of 1m 24.673s, two tenths of a second inside the lap record and he carried that form into qualifying. Indeed, a lap of 1m 24.163s was not only half a second quicker than what he’d gone all weekend, it was also the fastest ever two-wheel lap around the 2.43-mile GP circuit as he swept to his 57th career pole position.
Half a second quicker than his closest rival, Shakey was in confident mood heading into the 20-lap race but the race was only three laps old when it was red-flagged due to a five-rider crash. On the restart, held over the shorter distance of 16 laps, Shakey took the lead on the second lap but Christian Iddon stuck to his rear wheel.
At half race distance, the gap was still only a quarter of a second but on lap 11, Byrne doubled his advantage and with three laps remaining, held a one second advantage which he carried to the flag and with Haslam only managing fourth, it substantially reduced the points gap.
Team-mate Glenn Irwin was 16th fastest overall in the free practice sessions but despite going three tenths of a second quicker in qualifying, he had to start from the sixth row of the grid after a technical problem aboard his Be Wiser Ducati. He was holding onto 16th when the red flag came out and in the re-run he was soon up inside the top 12.
However, having worked his way up to tenth, the Carrickfergus rider pulled into the pits to retire at the end of lap ten, an intermittent misfire that had hindered his progress during practice returning and ending his race early.
Shane Byrne: “The bike’s been working well all weekend and pole position set me up nicely for the race. Everything was working well and when I saw the time I’d done, I was more than happy so I didn’t need to do anything else. In the re-started race, I got away at the front and it’s all I can do to try to win races. With the run of bad luck we’ve had, I’m in a situation where I’m so far behind Leon, the pressure’s off and I can just go out there and focus solely on racing. Christian pushed me hard but towards the end, I lowered my lap times to finish the race strongly. I haven’t won a race since July, which is a long time ago, and it’s almost like I’ve forgotten how to do it but I’ve got a great team behind me at PBM and with two races tomorrow, I’ll be trying to do exactly the same again.”
Glenn Irwin: “We’ve been struggling a bit with an intermittent misfire all weekend and just when we think we’ve got to the bottom of it, it reappears so it’s been a frustrating couple of days. In the first race, I was really struggling but for the re-run, everything was going really well to begin with and once I’d got up to tenth, the riders in front started to come back to me. Sadly, the misfire returned and I had little option other than to retire. The team have worked hard all weekend and have turned the bike upside down so they deserve a bit of luck which is hopefully what we’ll get in tomorrow’s races.”
Phil Borley, Technical Director: “It’s been a great weekend so far for Shakey and right from the off he’s been the man to beat with his qualifying lap being simply brilliant. He delivered the win in the first race and, with Leon finishing in fourth, it was probably the best we could have hoped for so we’ll hopefully have two more positive races tomorrow. Unfortunately, Glenn had an issue with the bike which we’re still investigating and it was a real shame as he was running in the top ten and catching the riders in front of him. We’ll work hard tonight to get the bike ready for tomorrow so he can end the year strongly.”
MCE British Superbike Championship race one (16 laps)
1 Shane Byrne (Be Wiser Ducati)
2 Christian Iddon (BMW)
3 Josh Brookes (Yamaha)
4 Leon Haslam (Kawasaki)
5 James Ellison (Yamaha)
6 Jason O’Halloran (Honda)
DNF Glenn Irwin (Be Wiser Ducati)
1 Haslam 625pts
2 Byrne 604
3 Brookes 596
4 Dixon 558
= Hickman 558
6 O’Halloran 536
14 Irwin 120
Pictures courtesy of Jon Jessop Photography: Shane Byrne on the podium and Glenn Irwin (2)