Northern Ireland’s Glenn Irwin took his maiden MCE British Superbike Championship victory in dramatic fashion at Silverstone this afternoon with the Be Wiser Ducati rider revelling in the damp conditions to win by a commanding 3.4 seconds.
However, there was disappointment for team-mate and defending champion Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne who crashed out of sixth place on the final lap although due to the mathematics of the race results, it meant he still became the first rider to secure his place in the Showdown which starts next weekend at Oulton Park.
With mixed weather during free practice, including heavy rain yesterday, today’s Datatag Extreme Qualifying session saw dry conditions at the Northamptonshire circuit but it was a challenging affair for the two factory-backed Be Wiser Ducati Panigale R riders with a mechanical problem leaving Irwin in ninth on the grid after failing to take to the track in Q3 and Byrne down in tenth after a tyre issue in Q2.
Following a downpour earlier in the afternoon, the sun was back out by the time the riders were out on track for the race but despite this, half the circuit was dry and half wet which meant tyre choice was crucial. Whilst Byrne opted for intermediate tyres, Irwin went for wets and he completed the opening lap in fourth with his team leader down in 14th as he struggled through the wet corners.
As the race wore on, it was clear it would be Irwin who had the best chance of success and having moved into the top three on the second lap, he took over the lead four laps later. Although he was still pushed hard by Josh Brookes and John Hopkins, the Carrickfergus rider was never headed again and in the final third of the race, he continually pulled away to eventually win by over three seconds for his first ever BSB victory.
Sittingbourne-based Londoner Byrne slowly got into his stride although the intermediate tyres took a lot longer to work as he would have liked as the wet sections of the track only dried slightly. By half race distance, he’d moved up into eighth and with the fastest lap of the race, it looked like he’d finish in sixth place.
But on the final lap and with just half a lap to go, he crashed out at Farm but the results on the day meant he remained in top spot overall and also secured the first of the six Showdown positions. His fastest lap also means he’ll start tomorrow’s second race from pole position.
Shane Byrne: “Firstly, I'm delighted to see Glenn win his first BSB race and I'm made up for him. The conditions out there were not ideal with it being half dry and half wet and I was disappointed to crashout so late on so the race was a bit of a non-event. I lost the front on the last lap and smashed the bike up so it’s been a disappointing afternoon for me personally but we’ll regroup tomorrow.”
Glenn Irwin: “I always believed I could win a BSB race this year and my injury came at the worst possible time but to finally win one is a mega feeling. It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid and although I was nowhere in the wet in free practice, I knew I could be there in the race. The team did a great job in changing the engine after qualifying and I’ve learnt a lot from Shakey in terms of managing the tyres. There’s no Showdown for me in 2017 but we’re still very much part of the races as we’ve shown today.”
Phil Borley, Technical Director: “Qualifying didn’t go that well today for either rider with Shakey having a bad vibration in Q2 and not making it into Q3 and Glenn’s bike having an oil pressure issue which prevented him from going out on track. He had to start from the third row but he picked the right tyres for the conditions and after making a good start, he didn’t push too hard too early. It’s fantastic for Glenn to win his first race after what he’s been through this year and the whole team’s delighted for him. For Shakey, he decided to go with intermediates but the track didn’t dry up anywhere near quickly enough for him to move forward and a damp patch caught him out at the end. Unfortunately, there were no points today but at least he’s in the Showdown now and starting from pole position tomorrow will obviously help.”
MCE British Superbike Championship race one (14 laps)
1 Glenn Irwin (Be Wiser Ducati)
2 Josh Brookes (Yamaha)
3 John Hopkins (Ducati)
4 Jake Dixon (Kawasaki)
5 Luke Mossey (Kawasaki)
6 Christian Iddon (BMW)
DNF Shane Byrne (Be Wiser Ducati)
1 Byrne 219pts
2 Haslam 209
3 Hickman 200
4 Brookes 187
5 O’Halloran 183
6 Mossey 172
10 Irwin 107
Pictures courtesy of Jon Jessop Photography: Shane Byrne (67) and Glenn Irwin (2)