The Penrith-based Paul Bird Motorsport team endured a tough weekend at Thruxton in Hampshire for round seven of the 2015 MCE British Superbike Championship but Shane 'Shakey' Byrne showed all the hallmarks of a champion to overcome the difficulties to claim a second and fourth place finish in the two races.
Aboard the PBM Kawasaki ZX-10R, the reigning and four-time champion found himself in the unfamiliar position of 17th place after yesterday's Datatag Extreme qualifying session which gave him a lot of work to do for today's opening 20-lap race. However, with some big changes overnight which resulted in fourth in morning warm-up, it gave him plenty of optimism although the first race was only five laps old when it was red flagged due to an oil spillage.
Upon the re-start, the Sittingbourne rider lined up in 12th before making his way up through the field as the race progressed. By lap four he was up to fourth and after a hectic battle, he managed to cross the line in fourth position to take 13 valuable points.
That performance gave him a strong grid position of row two for the second 20-lap race as the temperature soared at Britain's fastest track and whilst he was unable to move forward in the early stages, as the race progressed he moved up to second as his decision to run the harder rear tyre paid dividends whereby he held on to take second place at the chequered flag.
The result scored Byrne three more important Podium Points as he confirmed his place in the all-important Showdown phase at the end of the season which will determine the destiny of the 2015 title.
Team-mate Ian Hutchinson had qualified just behind Shakey for the first race and was in fine form throughout the weekend. Indeed, he carried his qualifying form into race day and opened his account with an excellent 13th place in the first race for his first MCE BSB points of the season.
Although he was deputising for the injured Stuart Easton, the Bingley ace was using the meeting primarily as preparation for next week's Ulster Grand Prix but he again proved his talent on the short circuits in the second race by finishing even higher up the order in 11th position.
Shane Byrne: "We've had a good season up until now but it just hasn't gone our way this weekend and to be in 17th after qualifying certainly wasn't in the script. At the same time, if you had said I would get these results on Friday afternoon, I would have snatched your arm off! This is the most difficult weekend I've ever had with the team and despite their hard work, we've been rubbish so I am delighted to salvage these results. The podium finish especially feels like a win, so that one is for my team and their efforts."
Ian Hutchinson: "Like Shakey, it's been a difficult weekend for me and I was making big changes to the bike before both the first race and again before the second. That's not an ideal situation to be in and in the second race, the safety car period really helped me as I was able to adjust the rear shock as I was going round. That allowed me to move forward a few places towards the end of the race and results-wise. I'm really happy. I've gone two seconds quicker than what I've ever done before around here and it's been ideal preparation for the Ulster GP.”
Phil Borley, Technical Director: "As both riders have said, it's been a difficult weekend for us although, fortunately, our race pace was better than our qualifying pace. We tried lots of things throughout the weekend to give the riders a better bike but we couldn't quite overcome a lack of drive grip out of the corners. We made small steps throughout but needed to make bigger ones to fight for the wins. Both riders dug in throughout each race and for Shakey to come away with a second and a fourth, and gain some valuable Podium Points, is the best we could have hoped for. Hutchy had a good weekend and was close to Shakey on numerous occasions so it was good to see him back in the groove after a long break since the TT. He beat some good BSB riders today and is looking strong ahead of the Ulster GP.”
MCE British Superbike Championship - Race One (15 laps)
1 Josh Brookes (Yamaha)
2 Dan Linfoot (Honda)
3 James Westmoreland (Kawasaki)
4 Shane Byrne (PBM Kawasaki)
5 Howie Mainwaring Smart (Kawasaki)
6 Luke Mossey (Kawasaki)
13 Ian Hutchinson (PBM Kawasaki)
MCE British Superbike Championship - Race Two (20 laps)
1 Josh Brookes (Yamaha)
2 Shane Byrne (PBM Kawasaki)
3 Luke Mossey (Kawasaki)
4 Tommy Bridewell (BMW)
5 Dan Linfoot (Honda)
6 Michael Laverty (BMW)
11 Ian Hutchinson (PBM Kawasaki)
Championship standings (after seven rounds)
1 Brookes 266pts
2 Byrne 254
3 Ellison 147
4 Easton 139
5 Laverty 115
6 Bridewell 112
26 Hutchinson 8
Image courtesy of Jon Jessop Photography: Shane Byrne in action at Thruxton