The Penrith-based Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki Team were back in MCE British Superbike Championship action this weekend at Oulton Park in Cheshire and although former triple Champion Shane 'Shakey' Byrne failed to add to his haul of race wins this season, three solid podiums did enough to maintain his series lead following round seven of the twelve-round series.
Despite suffering from minor injuries sustained in a cycling accident prior to the event, 37-year-old Shakey took pole position aboard the Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R for Saturday's opening race of the 'triple-header' weekend whereby he grabbed an immediate lead. In what proved to be one of the closest races of the year, there was less than half a second covering the top five at one stage but Shakey had to give best to Josh Brookes and then Ryuichi Kiyonari as the Japanese rider took the win ahead of the Aussie with Shakey in third.
Today's weather was a lot more changeable with rain making tyre choice crucial but it was still the same three riders battling for the race wins although triple MCE BSB Champion Shakey had to settle for third once more in the first race of the day behind Kiyonari and Brookes. In the final race of the weekend, the threat of rain stayed away although the circuit still had some damp patches but the Sittingbourne rider grabbed second place behind Brookes and continues to lead the way at the top of the championship standings.
The results also confirmed Byrne as the first rider to be confirmed as a Title Fighter in the end of season Showdown which will determine the 2014 MCE British Superbike Champion.
Team-mate Stuart Easton found the going tough initially in practice and qualifying but got quicker as the weekend progressed. Ninth in the first race was a major improvement from his 16th spot in qualifying and today's opener saw the Hawick rider leap even further forward into sixth. However, the reigning British Supersport Champion saved the best until the final race of the weekend where he was fighting it out for a podium position for the entire race distance. He finally claimed fifth place and with a good haul of points from the three races, he's brought himself back into serious contention for a top six Showdown spot.
Shane Byrne: "My fitness isn't what it should have been this weekend due to a bit of an accident away from racing on Thursday so with a second and two thirds from the three races, it hasn't been a bad weekend by my standards. Aside from having a bit less side grip, the bike was great all weekend and more than capable of winning and it was simply a case of the rider not quite being strong enough. I felt better today and although changeable conditions make it tough as you don't want to be on damp patches with slick tyres, the slower pace helped me last longer. I'm lost for words with how Josh rode in the last race as he was going through the damp patches like they weren't there so fair play to him. Three more podiums mean a good chunk of Podium Credits and hopefully I'll be back a lot stronger at the next round."
Stuart Easton: "Qualifying was pretty terrible for me but in free practice I was only a few tenths off the top five so, deep down, I knew it wasn't as bad as it looked and I've ended up with three strong results, particularly the two today. I'm still chasing a good set-up with the bike, and I need that and my confidence to go hand in hand and we're not a million miles away now. We made some further changes to the set-up of the bike and I've got to be satisfied with how I've ridden this weekend. The races were all about the conditions and I've picked up some good points from the three races, closing back in on the riders in front of me, and I'm still well in the hunt for a top six spot."
Stuart Bland, Team Co-ordinator: "We're disappointed to have come away from a triple header weekend without a race win and need to have a look at the set-up of the bikes to see where we can improve but, having said that, Shakey's been hampered this weekend with some injuries. We don't want to take anything away from the other riders who clearly rode well and whilst it's not an excuse it's definitely held him back a bit. Stuart's finally found his confidence this weekend and he's showed what he can do when everything's working well for him. The team made some changes to the bike which clearly helped him, especially today, and to go from 16th in qualifying to battling for a podium shows just how far he's come this weekend. The key now is to maintain and build upon that at Cadwell Park next time out."
After seven rounds, the championship table sees Byrne leading Brookes by 69 points, increasing his important Podium Credits tally to 50, a lead of 15 going into the next round over the August bank holiday weekend at Cadwell Park.
MCE British Superbike Championship Race One - 15 laps1 Ryuichi Kiyonari (BMW)2 Josh Brookes (Yamaha)3 Shane Byrne (Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki)4 Tommy Bridewell (Yamaha)5 Dan Linfoot (Kawasaki)6 John Hopkins (Suzuki)9 Stuart Easton (Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki)MCE British Superbike Championship Race Two - 18 laps1 Ryuichi Kiyonari (BMW)2 Josh Brookes (Yamaha)3 Shane Byrne (Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki)4 Dan Linfoot (Kawasaki)5 Chris Walker (Kawasaki)6 Stuart Easton (Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki)MCE British Superbike Championship Race Three - 18 laps1 Josh Brookes (Yamaha)2 Shane Byrne (Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki)3 Dan Linfoot (Kawasaki)4 Ryuichi Kiyonari (BMW)5 Stuart Easton (Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki)6 Josh Waters (Suzuki)Championship Points (after seven rounds)1 Byrne 313pts2 Brookes 2443 Kiyonari 2024 Linfoot 1565 Bridewell 1426 Walker 1368 Easton 119
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.