Shane Byrne and the Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki team's pursuit of the 2014 MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship showed no signs of abating at Knockhill today with the former triple MCE BSB champion taking a victory in race two to add to his second place in the opening race to extend his title lead even further.
After taking third place in Saturday's solitary Datatag Extreme qualifying session, a sluggish start in the opening 30-lap race left 'Shakey' down in fifth on the Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R at the end of the first lap and with considerable work to do around the tight, demanding 1.26-mile circuit.
However, the 37-year-old Sittingbourne rider was able to steadily move forward and he finally took over second place on the tenth lap and although he tried to close the gap to race leader Ryuichi Kiyonari, the deficit proved to be too big and he wisely settled for second place.
He made amends at the start of the second race and a perfect getaway allowed him to take the lead at the very first corner and for the entire 30 laps it was a head to head battle between him and Kiyonari, the two most successful riders in BSB history.
The Japanese rider briefly nosed ahead in the final third of the race but Shakey fought back and re-took the lead a lap later, duly crossing the line for his sixth win of the season and upping his winning tally to 57 career victories. .
Team-mate Stuart Easton also had reason to celebrate as the Hawick rider delighted the local fans as he took his first podium of the year at his home circuit for the Penrith-based team. The diminutive Scot made a brilliant start from the second row to immediately slot into third place at the beginning of the opening race and he successfully fought off the close attention of Josh Brookes in the closing stages to claim a strong rostrum finish.
The 30-year-old made another good start in the second race on the Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R and slotted into third in the early stages but by lap seven he had been pushed back to fifth, The reigning British Supersport champion held station to the finish although with good points from both races, he is just two points off sixth position meaning he's well in contention for a coveted Showdown placing later in the season.
Byrne's win means he has taken six victories out of the eight races to date for the Cumbrian team, finishing second in the other two to lead the title race by 79 points after four rounds. He has upped his tally to a record 57 MCE BSB wins and has also opened up a gap of 22 points in the important Podium Credits score which will become vital when the end of season Showdown takes place to decide the winner of the series.
Shane Byrne: "I threw the first race away at the beginning as I wasn't watching the lights properly meaning everyone had gone so it left me a lot of work to do. I got up to second and pushed hard for a few laps but the gap to Kiyo stayed constant and fair play to him for setting such a hard, fast pace so I decided to bring the bike home for second as it would have been too risky to push any harder. Kiyo was the man to beat all weekend as he was so consistent but I made a great start in the second race and although he briefly got by me, he made a mistake the lap after and I just went for it. We've struggled a bit all weekend as I've been chasing a good set-up with the front end so full credit to the team as we changed things again for the second race and, hopefully, that win repays them for all their hard work. "
Stuart Easton: "It's good to get my first podium of the year, especially with it coming at my home round of Knockhill. I got a good start, which definitely helped as it's hard to pass here and Shakey helped me a bit too as he dragged me along for the first 20 laps. I felt really strong but then struggled in the latter stages so I was delighted to bring the bike home for a good third place. There didn't seem to be as much grip in the second race as there was earlier in the day and I didn't have the pace to go with the front guys so I did as much as I could. It's never easy to finish inside the top five of an MCE BSB race so I'm pleased with the result and it's been a good weekend with a good haul of points. The next three circuits are ones I really enjoy so I'll be looking for more of the same, and, hopefully, more podiums, there."
Paul Bird: "A good weekend with strong performances from both Shakey and Stuart and to come away with a win and two podiums is a fantastic result. It's all about scoring points and Podium Credits at this stage in the season so we achieved that here at Knockhill. I'm pleased to see Kiyo back to winning ways so congratulations to him and his team and we look forward to doing battle again at Brands Hatch next time. Well done to my team also as they worked really hard this weekend and on the back of Broc Parkes scoring a brilliant 11th place for us in the MotoGP race at Assen yesterday, it's been a very good weekend all round."
MCE British Superbike Championship Race One (30 laps)
1 Ryuichi Kiyonari (BMW)
2 Shane Byrne (Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki)
3 Stuart Easton (Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki)
4 Josh Brookes (Yamaha)
5 Chris Walker (Kawasaki)
6 Tommy Bridewell (Yamaha)
MCE British Superbike Championship Race Two (30 laps)
1 Shane Byrne (Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki)
2 Ryuichi Kiyonari (BMW)
3 Chris Walker (Kawasaki)
4 Josh Brookes (Yamaha)
5 Stuart Easton (Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki)
6 Dan Linfoot (Kawasaki)
Championship standings (after four rounds)
1 Byrne 190pts
2 Brookes 111
3 Ellison 108
4 Bridewell 88
5 Kiyonari 82
6 Walker 76
7 Easton 74
Picture courtesy of Jon Jessop Photography: Shane Byrne and Stuart Easton on the podium at Knockhill