Bank Holiday Monday at Oulton Park proved to be a frustrating day for the Be Wiser Ducati RacingTeam and after a weekend that promised so much, Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne’s third place in the opening Bennetts British Superbike Championship race at the third round would prove to be their best result of the day.
With Byrne starting the first 18-lap race from pole position and team-mate Glenn Irwin third on the grid, hopes were high for some strong results on the factory-backed Ducati Panigale Rs but although six-times and defending champion Byrne made a good start, he was pushed back to sixth at the completion of the opening lap with Irwin looking good in third.
Positions remained the same until lap five when Carrickfergus rider Irwin crashed out at Island Bend, fortunately without injury, which left Byrne on his own to fly the flag for Paul Bird’s Penrith-based team. At half distance, he was still in fifth but over the second half of the race, he was able to move forward and in doing so, secured yet another BSB podium.
Despite his spill, 28-year-old Irwin was able to start the second 18-lap encounter from third once more although Byrne had slightly more work to do this time as he was on the second row in sixth. Fifth and seventh respectively at the end of lap one the duo found progress hard going in the hot conditions, but they continued to battle throughout.
Byrne managed to overhaul Peter Hickman on the third lap and the duo then did the same to Bradley Ray in quick succession leaving them in fourth and fifth at half race distance. Londoner Byrne overtook his team-mate at two-thirds race distance and although he closed the gap to third placed Jake Dixon, he couldn’t quite get close enough to make a pass.
As a result, he settled for fourth with Irwin one place further back in fifth and the day’s results mean Byrne now sits in third overall in the championship table on 98 points with Irwin two places further back in fifth.
Shane Byrne: “It’s been a difficult weekend and after practice and qualifying went so well, with fast, consistent lap times, race day proved to be hard going and I’m sitting here now wondering what went wrong. We had a problem in morning warm-up and suffered with a bit of chatter on corner entry during the first race, so it was a struggle although I managed to salvage a podium which was a solid enough result all things considered. We made some changes for race two which definitely improved the bike, but it took me a while to get by Peter and then Glenn as he was very strong on the brakes and getting back on the gas. I made inroads into Jake but couldn’t get close enough to pass so it was quite a frustrating race as I felt I had the pace to go with the leaders. I wish we could race again tomorrow but we’ll regroup for the next round.”
Glenn Irwin: “It’s been frustrating today and after being fast here in testing and in qualifying, thepotential was high, and I felt sure we’d be contesting the podiums. In race one, I was just sitting there behind the front two and could see they were using more rubber than me, but the crash came out of nowhere and I’m mystified as to what happened. It made me ride tense for the second race and not at all in my usual rhythm. I suffered with bad arm pump due to riding tense so fifth isn’t too bad from what was a pretty poor race. The weekend promised so much but we’re still in the top six with a good buffer to the riders behind us, so I’ll look forward to the North West 200 where I’ll be looking to be back on the top step once more.”
Johnny Mowatt, Team Co-ordinator: “It’s fair to say race day didn’t go to plan and with both riders going well all weekend, it didn’t happen today, and I think the increase in track temperatures caught them out a bit. We’ve maybe missed an opportunity today and we’re all feeling a bit deflated. Glenn’s crash knocked his confidence and you could see he wasn’t quite riding the same in the second race whilst Shakey didn’t make the greatest of starts and then got stuck in the pack a bit. The lap times were very equal so making moves wasn’t easy, but we’ll take it on the chin and focus all our efforts now on Glenn and the North West 200 where the sole objective will be to repeat last year’s win.”
The team now turn their attention to the International North West 200 with Irwin contesting the high-speed roads event of Portstewart, Coleraine and Portrush in Northern Ireland on May 15-19.
Bennetts British Superbike Championship race one (18 laps)
1 Leon Haslam (Kawasaki)
2 Jake Dixon (Kawasaki)
3 Shane Byrne (Be Wiser Ducati)
4 Bradley Ray (Suzuki)
5 Jason O’Halloran (Honda)
6 Josh Brookes (Yamaha)
DNF Glenn Irwin (Be Wiser Ducati)
Bennetts British Superbike Championship race two (18 laps)
1 Leon Haslam (Kawasaki)
2 Jason O’Halloran (Honda)
3 Jake Dixon (Kawasaki)
4 Shane Byrne (Be Wiser Ducati)
5 Glenn Irwin (Be Wiser Ducati)
6 Josh Brookes (Yamaha)
Championship Standings (after three rounds)
1 Haslam 115pts
2 Ray 101
3 Byrne 98
4 O’Halloran 63
5 Irwin 59
6 Dixon 55
Images courtesy of Double Red Photographic: Shane Byrne and Glenn Irwin