Following a tough couple of rounds, the Penrith-based Paul Bird Motorsport team bounced back in superb fashion at round nine of the MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship at Oulton Park this weekend whereby reigning champion Shane 'Shakey' Byrne scored a superb double victory to get his challenge back on track.
With three MCE BSB races over the course of the weekend, it was a busy meeting for both the riders and the team, but pole position for yesterday afternoon's race saw Shakey back to his best aboard the PBM Kawasaki ZX-10R. From there, he made it count and having grabbed the lead going into the first corner, he was never headed during the 18 laps and despite coming under pressure from James Ellison in the closing stages, he duly took his significant 67th career MCE BSB win.
The first race today saw the 37-year-old Sittingbourne rider locked in battle with main title rival Josh Brookes and there was never more than half a second between the pair. Going into the final two laps, the race was still anyone's but on the penultimate lap, Byrne suffered a technical problem which resulted in retirement and cruelly robbed him of crucial Podium Points heading into the Showdown.
With a spare engine fitted for the third and final race, it proved to be a hard fought race for Shakey and whilst he held a comfortable second place in the early stages, a slight mistake after a period under the safety car saw him drop back to fourth. But in typical style, the four-time champion fought his way back into contention and grabbed the lead on the penultimate lap to take his seventh win of the season.
Meanwhile, team-mate Stuart Easton was making his return to racing after breaking his leg in a high-speed spill at Brands Hatch in July and the weekend started well as he eased his way back. The Hawick-based rider was placed in a strong twelfth after the free practice sessions but unfortunately crashed out in the early stages of qualifying.
With further damage to his already injured leg, the 32-year-old Scot was forced to withdraw from the remainder of the meeting and with other results over the course of the two days not going his way, it meant he slipped back to seventh in the table, subsequently missing out on one of the top six Showdown spots.
Shane Byrne: "First of all, I'm delighted to be in the Showdown again this season and we can now regroup and get ready for the final three rounds. The first race was quite tricky this weekend and I wasn't sure how it would pan out, but I tried to relax and look after the tyres and it all went to plan. The second race was the first time we've had an engine failure in two years and I really felt for the team so that final race win is for them as they've turned it around for me after the problems we've had in recent rounds. Again, it was a hard race and after I made the pass on Josh, it gave me some work to do, but I dug deep and pulled through for the victory."
Stuart Easton: "After all the hard work in getting back for this round, it's not only disappointing to suffer another injury setback, but to miss out on a Showdown place by a narrow margin is especially harsh. I gave it my best shot and it didn't work out so now I have to concentrate on getting fully fit again. Well done to Shakey on the double win, I'm pleased for him and the PBM team and I hope to be back in action for Assen."
Paul Bird, Team Owner: "It's been a bittersweet weekend and obviously I'm really disappointed for Stuart after fighting his way back from injury only to suffer another one this weekend. He was riding really well this season and the broken leg in July came at the worst possible time and it's ultimately cost him his place in the Showdown. He's a fighter though and will come back stronger for sure. For Shakey, he's shown his class again this weekend and after a slight dip in form, he's bounced back like the champion he is. We had a cam-chain problem in the second race, which was our first engine problem in two years, but the boys put a spare engine in and he showed his class. It's now all about the Showdown and we're definitely ready with the only aim being to retain the number one plate."
Whereas Byrne trails Brookes in the points table, attention now turns to the Showdown scoring format which sees Brookes hold a slender two point lead going into the opening round of the Showdown, which takes place at Assen in The Netherlands over the weekend of September 18/20th 2015.
MCE British Superbike Championship -Race One (18 laps)1 Shane Byrne (PBM Kawasaki)2 James Ellison (Kawasaki)3 Danny Buchan (Kawasaki)4 Josh Brookes (Yamaha)5 Dan Linfoot (Honda)6 Luke Mossey (Kawasaki)DNS Stuart Easton (PBM Kawasaki)
MCE British Superbike Championship -Race Two (18 laps)1 Josh Brookes (Yamaha)2 Danny Buchan (Kawasaki)3 Dan Linfoot (Honda)4 Luke Mossey (Kawasaki)5 James Ellison (Kawasaki)6 Peter Hickman (BMW)DNF Shane Byrne (PBM Kawasaki)DNS Stuart Easton (PBM Kawasaki)
MCE British Superbike Championship -Race Three (18 laps)1 Shane Byrne (PBM Kawasaki)2 Josh Brookes (Yamaha)3 Tommy Bridewell (BMW)4 Danny Buchan (Kawasaki)5 James Ellison (Kawasaki)6 Dan Linfoot (Honda)DNS Stuart Easton (PBM Kawasaki)
Championship Positions (after nine rounds)1 Brookes 553pts2 Byrne 5513 Ellison 5224 Bridewell 507= Linfoot 5076 Laverty 5007 Easton 139