In one of the most dramatic finishes to the season in many years, Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne claimed the 2017 title in the most dramatic style at Brands Hatch today when he overcame a 33 point deficit to win his sixth MCE British Superbike Championship title.
Riding the factory-backed Be Wiser Ducati Panigale R, the Sittingbourne-based Londoner knew the odds were stacked against him following a poor run of results in recent rounds which saw him trail title-rival Leon Haslam arriving at the track at which Shakey had last taken a victory back in July.
The weekend started well with the 40 year old topping all three free practice sessions as well as being fastest in all three qualifying sessions. From pole position, he went on to take victory in yesterday’s opening race of the triple-header weekend in the unseasonably warm conditions as Haslam came home fourth, to close the gap between him and Byrne to 21 points.
Today dawned bright and in the second of the weekend’s races, Byrne was involved in a titanic scrap for the lead, cheered on by his legions of fans in the record 58,000 crowd at his local track. He went on to take victory by half a second and with Haslam encountering problems and struggling to tenth place, Byrne, who claimed BSB career win number 84 and a 21st around the famous GP track, saw the gap reduced to a mere two points but still in Haslam’s favour.
Shakey lined up in the middle of the front row for the final race of 2017, although a slightly sluggish start saw him drop back to sixth at the end of the opening lap, one place behind fast-starting arch-rival Haslam. Positions remained the same until lap six when Haslam crashed heavily at Hawthorn which gave Byrne the advantage. Needing a top 11 finish to claim his record-breaking sixth crown, Shakey did what he needed and brought the bike home in eighth place to wrap up the title and with it, gave Paul Bird’s Penrith-based team their 11th British title in the process.
Team-mate Glenn Irwin also ended his 2017 season strongly and, after being forced to retire from yesterday’s race, he opened his account today with a strong ride into seventh having overhauled fellow Ulsterman Michael Laverty on the final lap.
The Carrickfergus rider started from tenth place for the last race of the weekend and looked on course for another top ten finish until a big moment at Sheene Curve on lap five caused him to run into the gravel trap. Dropping back to 17th, he fought his way back up to 13th for three hard-earned points to finish the season in 12th overall.
Shane Byrne: “You always go racing to win championships but after having such a rough ride over the last few rounds, I was beginning to think 2017 just wasn’t meant to be so the weekend was all about having some fun and whatever happened, happened. After yesterday’s race, I was suddenly a lot less points behind and back in the hunt but I knew Leon wasn’t going to take it lying down and he proved that in the final race. When he crashed in front of me, it threw me a bit though and for the next few laps I wasn’t sure what to do. I kept hearing things and making the odd mistake so it took me a while to get back into my rhythm. The race took an eternity but to defend my title for the first time is an amazing feeling. We got the job done so a big thanks to the PBM team, Ducati, my sponsors, my family, everyone. I’ve always wanted to defend the title so I’m over the moon to do it and going into the winter as the 2017 BSB champion is an amazing feeling.”
Glenn Irwin: “The weekend started positively but I had a difficult Saturday with a small electrical problem hindering us in both qualifying and the first race. Sunday was definitely a lot better though and although not back to my best, I was a lot more competitive. The end results might not look the greatest but I had a lot better feeling and was able to give the team a lot more feedback so we know the direction we need to go in for 2018. It’s been a mixed season but that’s the way racing goes sometimes and it will ultimately make us a lot stronger so roll on 2018.”
Paul Bird, Team Owner: “I’m absolutely flabbergasted! We came here with a small chance of the title but it got more realistic as the weekend went on and Shakey rode sensationally all weekend, it was a very fast Shane Byrne that turned up this weekend. Full credit must go to the team as well as they were under pressure all weekend to put a bike under Shakey that would deliver. It’s the first time Shakey’s defended the title and it’s both his and our sixth BSB title but this is probably the sweetest. It’s a very proud day for all of us and not a bad effort at all for a little team from up north!”
MCE British Superbike Championship race two (20 laps)
1 Shane Byrne (Be Wiser Ducati)
2 Christian Iddon (BMW)
3 James Ellison (Yamaha)
4 Josh Brookes (Yamaha)
5 Jason O’Halloran (Honda)
6 Peter Hickman (BMW)
7 Glenn Irwin (Be Wiser Ducati)
MCE British Superbike Championship race three (20 laps)
1 Josh Brookes (Yamaha)
2 Jason O’Halloran (Honda)
3 James Ellison (Yamaha)
4 Michael Laverty (Yamaha)
5 Christian Iddon (BMW)
6 Peter Hickman (BMW)
8 Shane Byrne (Be Wiser Ducati)
13 Glenn Irwin (Be Wiser Ducati)
Final Championship Standings (after 12 rounds)
1 Byrne 637pts
2 Brookes 634
3 Haslam 631
4 Hickman 578
5 O’Halloran 567
6 Dixon 562
12 Irwin 132
Pictures courtesy of Jon Jessop