Shane 'Shakey' Byrne became the first man in history to take the MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship on four occasions when he clinched the 2014 crown with a double victory on the Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki at Brands Hatch on Sunday.
The Sittingbourne rider's task was made slightly easier when season long rival Ryuichi Kiyonari crashed out in free practice on Saturday morning, sustaining a broken collarbone in the process, but yesterday afternoon's opening race saw further drama when Shakey crashed out of second place meaning his lead over his arch rival remained at 12 points.
That meant the title wouldn't be decided until the final race day of the season and although the Japanese rider was unable to start today's races, Shakey still had to finish fourth to make certain of the title. Starting from the third row of the grid meant there was further work to do but Byrne gradually worked his way through the field and hit the front for the first time at half race distance. From there on, he was never challenged and duly took the chequered flag for the 60th MCE BSB win of his illustrious career, duly securing the prestigious crown in the process.
With the pressure off, Shakey, who also won the title in 2003, 2008 and 2012, then went on to take his 61st race win in the final race of the year after a terrific six-rider battle whilst there was further joy for the Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki team with Stuart Easton wrapping up the MCE BSB Rider's Cup after three superb rides, which saw him finish all three races inside the top six.
The Hawick rider was on the pace throughout the weekend and enjoyed one of his strongest meetings of the year, taking fourth, fifth and sixth from his three outings. The results secured his seventh place overall in the Championship which saw him awarded the BSB Rider's Cup, the trophy awarded to the best rider outside of the top six Showdown places.
Also in action for the Penrith-based team was eight-time TT winner Ian Hutchinson who was again on board the Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R Kawasaki in preparation for the forthcoming Macau Grand Prix whereby he battled to 22nd position.
Shane Byrne: "After what happened on Saturday, I was paranoid about something going wrong on the first lap today and my only plan was to get through the first couple of laps unscathed. I could see the guys leading but there was no rush and I picked them off one by one to eventually get the lead. I just concentrated on running a steady rhythm and got my head down to eventually open up a gap. To take the title with a win is massive although, of course, it's a real shame Kiyo wasn't out there. Massive commiserations to him and his team as I would have loved him to have been battling with us in all three races. I was really tense in the final few laps but I brought the bike home and to wrap everything up Stuart Easton: "It's been a strong end to the season for me and the last three or four rounds have been really pleasing and the results have been more in line with what I want. Saturday's race was really tricky as conditions were difficult so to come away with a top six finish set things up for Sunday. We made a few changes to the bike for the dry conditions and they made a big difference, making the grip loads better and I could run the pace of the top boys throughout. To end the season with fourth, fifth and sixth was really good and had it not been for a few poor rounds mid-season, things could have been different. As it is, I've ended the year in seventh place overall and with the MCE BSB Rider's Cup on the cabinet so I'll take it. There are a lot of positives to take out of the year and enable me to move forward again so I'll be taking that all on board and look for bigger and better things in 2015."
Ian Hutchinson: "Track time's always a bit scarce in the Superstock 1000 class and with the weather being a bit iffy this weekend, I was up against it a bit. The result was not quite what I was looking for but I didn't want to get caught up in anything as the whole purpose of riding at these last two rounds has been to get some time on the Kawasaki prior to Macau next month. I've done just that and have a test planned on Shakey's bike in the next couple of days so can't wait to get out on the Superbike."
Paul Bird: "What can I say; it's been a good day for us and to be here again as British Champions is pretty emotional. Obviously with Kiyo being out injured, it changed things a bit and wasn't how any of us wanted the year to end but with Shakey crashing out on Saturday, the pressure was still very much on. He came out in true Champion's style though and to take the title with two wins was brilliant. I was delighted for Stuart as well winning the BSB Rider's Cup. He's been really strong these last few rounds and it's nice to have seen both riders do their jobs this weekend. It's been a great year for the team so a massive thanks to all the sponsors and for everyone that's been involved."
MCE British Superbike Championship - race 1 (18 laps)1 Howie Mainwaring (Kawasaki)2 Josh Waters (Suzuki)3 Jon Kirkham (Kawasaki)4 Dan Linfoot (Kawasaki)5 Tommy Bridewell (Yamaha)6 Stuart Easton (Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki)DNF Shane Byrne (Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki)MCE British Superbike Championship - race 2 (20 laps)1 Shane Byrne (Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki)2 James Ellison (Kawasaki)3 Howie Mainwaring (Kawasaki)4 Josh Brookes (Yamaha)5 Stuart Easton (Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki)6 Tommy Bridewell (Yamaha)MCE British Superbike Championship - race 3 (17 laps)1 Shane Byrne (Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki)2 James Ellison (Kawasaki)3 Tommy Bridewell (Yamaha)4 Stuart Easton (Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki)5 Josh Brookes (Yamaha)6 Dan Linfoot (Kawasaki)Final Championship Points (after 12 rounds)1 Byrne 682pts2 Kiyonari 6203 Bridewell 5874 Brookes 5845 Linfoot 5776 Walker 5257 Easton 231