Triple British Superbike Champion Shane 'Shakey' Byrne came away from the sixth round of the MCE British Superbike Championship at the high speed Thruxton circuit with a pair of second place finishes to maintain his championship lead as the series reached its midway point.
However, after such a dominant start to the 2014 season, it was a tough weekend for Byrne as he struggled aboard the Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R in qualifying and he had to call upon all of his experience to claim fourth on the grid for the first race.
In the opening race at the fast Hampshire track, the Sittingbourne rider immediately slotted into third place and although it wasn't until the ninth of 20 laps that he was able to find a way past Dan Linfoot, once there he was able to resist all further challenges, particularly from a charging Ryuichi Kiyonari in the closing stages, to claim a hard fought second place behind Josh Brookes who took the win.
It was a similar story in the second race later in the day, which was reduced to 15 laps following a red flag. 37-year-old Shakey got the holeshot and led up until the sixth lap when Brookes edged ahead although the Australian was unable to pull clear like he had done in the opening encounter. There was little to choose between Brookes, Shakey and Kiyonari but in a grandstand finish, they crossed the line in that order allowing Shakey to claim his 11th podium out of the 12 races to date.
For team-mate Stuart Easton it was another tough weekend with the Scot struggling to get on the pace but he battled on gamely and was rewarded with a top seven finish in the second race. After a disappointing qualifying and first race, where he finished 16th, the Hawick rider upped his pace as the second race wore on and charged through the pack to claim a deserved seventh place. The result keeps the 2013 British Supersport Champion in eighth place in the points table as the season enters its crucial point.
After six rounds, the championship table sees Byrne leading Brookes by 82 points, increasing his important Podium Credits tally to 45, a lead of 21 going into next weekend's triple-header at Oulton Park.
Shane Byrne: "In the greater scheme of things, I should be ecstatic with two second place finishes and 40 points given all the problems we had in practice and qualifying but I rode my heart out in both races and I am a bit disappointed not to have grabbed a win. I made a few mistakes in the first race which allowed Josh to make the break and the team did a great job to give me a bike I could challenge for the race win in the second race so I was more confident. I had to work so hard to keep up with Josh though and thought I might be able to nick it on the last lap but it almost ended in tears as I had to scrub off an awful lot of speed so as not to collide with him. It's more points and fair play to Josh as he rode superbly all weekend but we'll see what we can do at Oulton next weekend."
Stuart Easton: "I've struggled all weekend to find a good setting on the bike that's made me feel comfortable and we've tried that many settings it's been untrue but I'm pleased to have finished with a strong result. The first race was poor and I simply wasn't comfortable but we went back to the settings we used in morning warm-up for the second race and although not ideal, the bike was the best it had felt all weekend. In the early laps of race two, I didn't feel good at all but the more the race wore on, the happier I became and although the tyres had gone past their best, I was getting quicker, which is almost unheard of at Thruxton. If the race had been the full 20 laps, it would definitely have been top six so I'm pleased that I gave it everything I had right up until the end and salvaged a positive result from the weekend."
Paul Bird, Team Owner: "After his double win here last year, I thought we may have just been a little bit stronger this weekend but I'm not too disappointed. Two more podiums for Shakey sees him edge closer towards The Showdown and he's only effectively dropped four points to Brookes. We know what the problem was so we'll sort it this week and come back stronger at Oulton. I'm particularly pleased with the way Stuart dug in and got a result in race two. He showed real determination after a difficult weekend for him and hopefully he can bounce back at Oulton too where he traditionally goes well at."
MCE British Superbike Championship Race One - 20 laps1 Josh Brookes (Yamaha)2 Shane Byrne (Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki)3 Ryuichi Kiyonari (BMW)4 Dan Linfoot (Kawasaki)5 Tommy Bridewell (Yamaha)6 Jakub Smrz (Ducati)16 Stuart Easton (Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki)MCE British Superbike Championship Race Two - 15 laps1 Josh Brookes (Yamaha)2 Shane Byrne (Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki)3 Ryuichi Kiyonari (BMW)4 Dan Linfoot (Kawasaki)5 Chris Walker (Kawasaki)6 Jon Kirkham (Kawasaki)7 Stuart Easton (Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki)Championship Points (after six rounds)1 Byrne 261pts2 Brookes 1793 Kiyonari 1394 Ellison 1245 Linfoot 116= Walker 1167 Bridewell 1128 Easton 91
The Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki MCE British Superbike Championship Team is running alongside the PBM MotoGP Team with riders Michael Laverty and Broc Parkes. Additionally, Paul Bird is running a full campaign in the REIS BTRDA Rally Series as well as selected International events in his Ford Focus WRC07. Both bike racing teams are sporting the colours of British Racing Green in deference to the team's proud British heritage.