UN­BEAT­ABLE SHAKEY RULES BRANDS HATCH

Byrne rides around Du­cati’s front-end is­sues to score com­mand­ing dou­ble vic­tory in front of home crowd

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Sport - BYRNE’S HOT FORM AT BRANDS HATCH BSB RE­PORTER oli.rushby@mo­tor­cy­cle­news.com OLI RUSHBY GIO­VANNI CRUPI SHAKEY’S CREW CHIEF

Shane Byrne showed his class at the sev­enth round of the MCE Bri­tish Su­per­bike Cham­pi­onship, de­fy­ing a per­sis­tent lack of front end feel­ing to take a tri­umphant dou­ble vic­tory in front of 55,000 fans.

The four-time Bri­tish cham­pion topped ev­ery prac­tice ses­sion, set the fastest ever two-wheeled lap around the Brands Hatch Grand Prix cir­cuit and stormed to his first dou­ble of the sea­son (and Du­cati’s first since Byrne won both races at Brands on the Air­waves Du­cati in 2008), but it was harder than he made it look.

While Byrne was able to set a fast pace, the week­end saw a plethora of un­char­ac­ter­is­tic mis­takes as he grap­pled to make the Pani­gale be­have the way he wanted it to around the 2.4-mile GP cir­cuit.

“It’s fair to say we didn’t re­ally hit the nail on the head with the bike this week­end,” Byrne told MCN, tro­phy in hand. “Don’t get me wrong, we still won but we won in a sce­nario where I wasn’t com­fort­able with the bike, not like we did at Snet­ter­ton and Thrux­ton where I felt re­ally good.

“This bike is a thor­ough­bred, when it’s in its win­dow it’s the ab­so­lute nuts and I’m re­ally en­joy­ing rid­ing it, but when it’s off it is com­pletely spite­ful and pun­ishes you for mis­takes; if you slide you’re out of the seat and it’s dif­fi­cult to con­trol.

“It’s been frus­trat­ing at times, but now I have an affin­ity with the bike I know if changes are work­ing within the space of a cou­ple of laps. I’ve said all along that our achilles heel with this bike is fine-tun­ing it to each cir­cuit we come to, and that’s some­thing we strug­gled with this week­end as I wasn’t happy with the feel­ing from the front at all.”

Key to tam­ing the Pani­gale’s dif­fi­cult and tem­per­a­men­tal na­ture is the re­la­tion­ship Byrne has struck up with crew chief Gio­vanni Crupi, who has come to the PBM team di­rect from Du­cati Corse in Bologna – prompt­ing some ri­vals to com­plain the squad has an un­fair ad­van­tage (see p76).

“Gio­vanni and I work well to­gether, he has a lot of faith in me and I have a lot of faith in him. I tell him what I feel and he gives me the bike he thinks I need. He knows the bike like the back of his hand. My job is to ride the bike and give him the best feed­back I can, and it seems to work as in the second race he gave me a much eas­ier bike to ride.”

Hav­ing won five of the last seven races, Byrne is be­gin­ning to look like a clear favourite to win the 2016 Bri­tish Su­per­bike ti­tle. How­ever, he ad­mits he’s not con­vinced it’ll be plain sail­ing.

“Can we win any­where? I’d never as­sume that,” he said. “Cad­well is next and al­though we’ve tested there we’ve still a lot of work to do. Our test went well but I don’t think it’ll be easy.

“After that we go to Oul­ton, and we strug­gled there ear­lier this year. I think we’ll go bet­ter there this time, but you can never be sure. The thing is, Bri­tish Su­per­bikes isn’t easy. If you brought a Du­cati Des­mosedici GP bike here it wouldn’t be sim­ple to go out and win.

“If I’m hon­est that’s why we chose this route this year. It’s a fresh in­jec­tion of life; a new chal­lenge, some­thing we all needed in the team. It’d have been easy to stay with Kawasaki and we had all the set­tings we needed to go fast, but who wants easy? Now I get to take so much pride in do­ing what we’re do­ing and this means the world to me.”

‘It would’ve been easy to stay with Kawasaki but who wants easy?’ SHANE BYRNE

‘This was a re­ally im­por­tant week­end. While we were fast on Fri­day and Satur­day, we were re­ally strug­gling with the feel­ing on the front, maybe be­cause we were push­ing the tyre too hard. We found a com­pro­mise and it was a win­ning choice, but it was not per­fect.

‘That to me shows just how good Shakey is as a rider; he is class, there is no doubt about that. I’m try­ing to do ev­ery­thing I can to give him the per­fect bike he wants, like it was im­me­di­ately from FP1 at Thrux­ton and in qual­i­fy­ing and the races at Snet­ter­ton but here, we had to work hard to find a set-up and Shakey made up the rest.

‘The bike is now at a good level, now we turn our at­ten­tion to the smaller things. We have lots to try and if these things work, there is more to come from the bike, but when you have a rider like Shakey there is al­ways more to come. We have worked hard and you can see our progress, at the start of the year we could not win but were close. We then took our first win at Brands and Shakey has won at ev­ery round since and then took the dou­ble here.’

Shakey was the man with the fizz at Brands Hatch – but the wins didn’t come eas­ily

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