It was looking to be a perfect weekend for the defending British Superbike Champion Shane Byrne in the opening round of the series at Brands Hatch today. Byrne had set the pace the entire weekend, earned pole, and won the first race. But Byrne’s weekend domination was spoiled by James Ellison, the Milwaukee Yamaha rider battling and beating Byrne for the win in race two.
In race one, Byrne led early on his Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki, but he didn’t want to lead all 30 laps of the race and wanted to make sure he could have something in reserve at the end.
"I had a better start than anticipated and found myself leading the race at the start,” Byrne said. “At the beginning I might as well had been riding to the shops as I didn't want to be leading for 30 laps because the circuit is short and then you push harder and you never know what the other guys will have in reserve. I cruised about then Josh [Brookes] passed me and that was cool, so I could see what he had. I saw Keith [Farmer] up to third and thought 'fantastic' as I knew Josh and Alex [Lowes] would be strong at the end of the race. I upped the pace in the last laps to try and get a bit of a gap and from then on tried to be consistent and it paid off."
The veteran’s strategy was well played and in the end Byrne’s challenger Brookes, on the Tyco Suzuki, came under pressure from Lowes and was passed on lap 10, forcing Brookes to settle for third.
Byrne’s teammate Keith Farmer also had a great start to the race and battled with Lowes for fourth place in the early stages, but dropped back towards the end of the race to finish in sixth.
Jon Kirkham equaled the Buildbase BMW team’s best result at fourth place, finishing ahead of Bathams Honda’s Tommy Bridewell.
The race was red flagged with just over a lap to go as result of a crash that involved James Westmoreland and Dan Linfoot on the run to Graham Hill Bend. The pair were battling for seventh position and while Westmoreland was left to rest up before race two, Linfoot suffered a cracked pelvis.
With Westmoreland and Linfoot out of the race, Chris Walker finished seventh and Ryuichi Kiyonari in eighth. This also promoted the two BSB rookies - American PJ Jacobsen and Australian Josh Waters – to ninth and 10th, respectively.
Ellison’s race one was marred by a ride-through penalty, but he set the fastest lap and was promoted to pole position for race two. Although Byrne, once again, led the first lap of the race, Ellison passed him on lap two. They battled up front for most of the race with Lowes chasing the leaders in third.
With three laps remaining, it appeared that Byrne was going to get the chance to make the pass for the lead after Ellison had a moment out of Graham Hill Bend. Byrne tried to make a move on the inside but was forced to run off at Surtees to avoid a collision.
With Byrne running off, that moved Alex Lowes into second position, had Byrne settling for third, and a very happy Ellison came away with the race win.
After a disappointing race one, Ellison was happy to rebound with the win.
“It was great to bounce back in the second one from the schoolboy error in the first race as it was really disappointing,” he said. “It is bittersweet as we didn't show what we were capable of in the first one as I could do the times consistently but knew we had to get a good start and step up. I was a bit surprised at the pace we were all able to run and I knew Shakey was behind me. I could see from Shakey's pit board that Alex was there as well and I thought 'I need to hold my own until the end'. I really enjoyed being out the front with the other guys and full credit to the Milwaukee Yamaha team as we have had an impressive start to the season.”
In reference to the incident between himself and Byrne, Ellison said: “I definitely heard the close call going into Surteees! I had a bit of a moment at Graham Hill Bend and I thought that was enough for Shakey to try and make a move, but we were lucky and held onto it.”
After the race, Byrne said: “My strategy at the start was to wait, I got a good start and I slotted in behind James and all credit to him, he rode really well. His pace was really fast and it is hard here to pick a spot to try and make a pass. I felt a bit bad as I was going to make a move right at the end, I was thinking about it quite hard and then James had a moment coming out of the bottom bend and I thought 'right this is my opportunity' and I got along the inside of him and then about three quarters of the way he started to peel into the corner and I was saying in my head 'no James, no don't do it' and I sat up and clipped his back wheel and had to go straight on.”
Kiyonari, on the Samsung Honda, improved his race-one result with a fourth place finish ahead of Brookes. Jon Kirkham followed them in sixth on the Buildbase BMW and Karl Harris in seventh on the PR Racing Kawasaki.
Walker got another top 10 finish over the weekend with an eighth-place finish and Westmoreland rebounded from his race-one crash in ninth.
Byrne’s teammate Farmer rounded out the top 10 and Jacobsen finished 12th.
Race One Result:
1. Shane Byrne (Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki)
2. Alex Lowes (Samsung Honda)
3. Josh Brookes (Tyco Suzuki)
4. Jon Kirkham (Buildbase BMW)
5. Tommy Bridewell (Bathams Honda)
6. Keith Farmer (Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki)
7. Chris Walker (Quattro Plant Bournemouth Kawasaki)
8. Ryuichi Kiyonari (Samsung Honda)
9. PJ Jacobsen (Tyco Suzuki)
10. Josh Waters (Milwaukee Yamaha)
Race Two Result:
1. James Ellison (Milwaukee Yamaha)
2. Alex Lowes (Samsung Honda)
3. Shane Byrne (Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki)
4. Ryuichi Kiyonari (Samsung Honda)
5. Josh Brookes (Tyco Suzuki)
6. Jon Kirkham (Buildbase BMW)
7. Karl Harris (PR Racing Kawasaki)
8. Chris Walker (Quattro Plant Bournemouth Kawasaki)
9. James Westmoreland (Buildbase BMW)
10. Keith Farmer (Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki)
12. PJ Jacobsen (Tyco Suzuki)
British Superbike Championship Standings:
1. Shane Byrne (Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki) 41
2. Alex Lowes (Samsung Honda) 40
3. Josh Brookes (Tyco Suzuki) 27
4. James Ellison (Milwaukee Yamaha) 25
5. Jon Kirkham (Buildbase BMW) 23
6. Ryuichi Kiyonari (Samsung Honda) 21
7. Chris Walker (Quattro Plant Bournemouth Kawasaki) 17
8. Keith Farmer (Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki) 16
9. PJ Jacobsen (Tyco Suzuki) 11
10. Tommy Bridewell (Bathams Honda) 11