It’s Super Shakey! Shane Byrne too hot to handle again at Snetterton round of the British Superbike Championship
- Credit: Archant
It was another stellar weekend of British Superbikes action at Snetterton – but there was one man who reigned supreme. Michael Bailey reports as Shane Byrne proved his class again…
Snetterton can treat riders as if they've done something wrong. As if nothing will ever go right on Norfolk's premier piece of asphalt. You doubt Shane Byrne knows how that feels.
Shakey is already a legend in the British Superbikes. A record four-times champion. The defending champion. But a rider who seemed to have a mounting challenge for his crown in an ultra-competitive 2015.
That was how it felt before round four at Snetterton, anyway. Before Sittingbourne's number 67 took his PBM Kawasaki to the top of the time sheets on Friday despite mechanical problems. He repeated the feat in the changeable conditions of Saturday's qualifying to stick his bike on pole.
And then in a Sunday demonstration of dominance rarely seen in such a close series, Byrne blew the field away – twice.
Having won both races at the same circuit in 2014, Shakey has now won the last five at Snetterton, seven in total in Norfolk – in turn completing his 14th career double and 64th BSB victory.
But as the only man on Sunday to lap the 2.99-miles of Snetterton 300 in under one minute 48 seconds the most pleasing piece of news to him was turning a championship deficit heading to Nelson's county, into a 33-point lead. Not a bad bit of progress if you're bidding for a remarkable fifth title.
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'I do like Snetterton, I'm not going to deny that,' said Byrne, with more than a glint in his eye. 'It's really difficult to the set the bike up for here because the circuit is in two parts, and we'd been really strong in the twisty infield but struggling on the fast stuff. So the team did a wonderful job, gave me a great bike, and I'm really happy.
'It's pretty cool to win five from five here now and I think the only reason I didn't win the other one was because we got knocked off the track! I don't really know what to say. I love winning wherever it is, but the good thing about winning here is the fans come out in force, there are always a lot of people here, a really knowledgeable crowd.
'They get here, get right behind you and to do another double for them is fantastic.'
The way Byrne tore off the line and into the distance at the start of race one set the tone. That result never looked in doubt, and it was only Shakey's admission he had to nurse the bike home for two-thirds of the distance with a worsening electronic issue that offered comfort to his rivals.
Josh Brookes acknowledged his botched start in the opener effectively handed Byrne the win, even though he managed an impressive recovery ride to second. And it looked like race two would be more of a contest as the Australian harried close behind the defending champion over the early laps – only for an electronic issue of his own to leave him sliding down the field.
Once again Brookes revived his quick Milwaukee Yamaha back to second step on the podium and ultimately second in the championship standings – although he's still short of his first victory of the year.
The main reason for the title progress of Byrne and Brookes however, was the nightmare weekend for Friday's championship leader James Ellison.
While the JG Speedfit man usually enjoys his trips to Snetterton, a high-speed qualifying crash left him down the grid with a bike in bits and a battered body to ride it.
Sunday's warm-up was a write-off and although Ellison got as high as 15th, he was eventually forced into a race-one retirement. He did at least have the consolation of seventh in race two, preventing his slide in the title standings running anything lower than third.
Breakthrough act was little-known Australian Jason O'Halloran, whose two third-places for Honda Racing were his first BSB podiums after hit and miss spells in the series – and also involved more than a bit of fun and games with compatriot Brookes along the way.
Popular Japanese rider Ryuichi Kiyonari endured a Sunday disaster that was finally put out of its misery with a spill four laps into race two – while most dramatic retirement went to Taylor McKenzie, whose WD40 Kawasaki burst into flames underneath him. He spent longer than was comfortable remaining on the bike, before being forced to leap from the two-wheeled fireball – leaving his burning machine to freewheel into a grass bank.
The round didn't quite to go plan for Marham's RAF Reserves at their home track – something of a pattern for Lee Hardy's outfit. Peter Hickman couldn't repeat his Isle of Man heroics but after qualifying a disappointing 21st, at least produced a pair of points-scoring finishes.
However, the Louth rider is still playing catch-up in the championship following his accident in the previous round at Oulton Park, and will now head to Knockhill 15th.
Norwich's Morello Racing were always looking at the bigger picture for their BSB runners and could be heartened by Lee Costello's improving pace on his first outing aboard their Kawasaki, while Danny Johnson never made race two after failing to take the flag in the opener.
More than 40,000 spectators visited Snetterton over the course of the three-day event, which also saw an Apache helicopter fly-past and a visit from bike legend Giacomo Agostini – the Italian present to officially inaugurate the corner of Norfolk circuit named in his honour.
• Follow Michael Bailey on Twitter @michaeljbailey