‘Leon is just too tenacious. He’s a tough competitor because unless you have at least a twosecond gap on him you can’t do your own thing’
Shane Byrne after bossing the opening Showdown weekend
Shane Byrne took first blood with a double victory as the 2016 MCE British Superbike title fight got underway at Donington Park this weekend.
The four-time British Champion bounced back from a tough Oulton Park seven days earlier, which saw him concede the series lead to Leon Haslam. But two wins at Donington, combined with Haslam crashing out of race two (see page 76), means the Be Wiser Ducati man now has a 27-point lead with just two rounds and five races remaining.
Able to make the soft Pirelli rear tyre last while Haslam couldn’t, Byrne cruised to a dominant first race victory before what looked set to be a titanic race two battle between the duelling duo was cut short by Haslam’s untimely crash.
“The weather definitely played into our hands as it warmed up a bit whereas it was cold on Friday and Saturday,” Byrne told MCN after he’d got off the phone to Ducati Corse Director Ernesto Marinelli who was in Germany for WSB. “For the sun to come out was the perfect scenario for me as it just makes the softer tyre work that little bit better and I seem to have the advantage when it comes to making tyres last.
“That being said, it was never going to be easy as Leon is just too tenacious. He never, ever gives up. He’s a really tough competitor because unless you have at least a two-second gap on him you can’t do your own thing. Even if you have a one-second lead you can guarantee he’ll be taking a lunge up the inside somewhere! You can never let your guard down and relax until you get that little bit more and when I have that I can settle in to my rhythm and ride how I want.”
For Byrne to take the double and a large championship lead at a track known as Haslam’s stomping ground, being just 15 minutes from his Smalley home, is even more significant. On top of this, as a World Superbike venue, Haslam has no lack of circuit knowledge to potentially hold him back.
“I was more than aware Leon was going to be strong this weekend as he’s always been good here,” said Byrne. “But at the same time I can’t look at him and think ‘oh no, he’ll go well here so that’s me out of it!’
“If either of us wants to win this title we have to beat each other and he and I have been particularly strong this weekend and I was really happy we were able to be there and match him.”
While Byrne now leads the series by more than a race win’s worth of points, the BSB stalwart knows he cannot rest on his laurels ahead of the five remaining races at Assen and Brands Hatch.
“You can take nothing for granted in BSB. I’ve been to Assen with a 27-point lead before and left with a two-point gap! I had a bad weekend at Oulton and a good weekend here, while with Leon it was the other way around. We both need to go to Assen with exactly the same mindset with the target being to beat each other, so there’s no way I can back off at all just because I have a bit of a buffer. The Showdown doesn’t work like that.
“The biggest advantage Leon has on us is that he’s really good on the brakes but at Assen and Brands there aren’t as many big braking zones, they’re much more flowing and that’s what suits the Ducati.”
As the season draws to a close, talk has already begun with regards to who will do what next year and Byrne hopes to have a deal done and dusted to stay where he is in the next couple of weeks.
“My boss congratulated me after the first race and told me he doesn’t think he’s ever seen me ride as well as I did in that one! He’s certainly happy so I’m fairly sure it won’t be too much longer before we can both confirm we’ll be staying together for 2017.”
in BSB history finally go when Leon Haslam bettered his ten-year-old time at Cadwell, and we’ve seen the fastest-ever laps at each of the last four circuits we’ve visited.
Initially it was just the qualifying pace, but over the last three rounds the ante has been upped as riders scrambled to get in to the Showdown. Race pace is now so quick that even the tiniest of mistakes are being punished more than ever. Look at Shane Byrne at Oulton Park ten days ago – he was quick enough to win all three races but through bad starts and poor grid positions, he just wasn’t able to make his way through the dogfighting pack ahead.
The same happened to Dan Linfoot and Christian Iddon this weekend – both had pace to be on the podium as shown in race two, but after mistakes in the first race they were simply unable to recover as, while they could match the incredible pace ahead, they just couldn’t better it.
‘Haslam’s pole would have put him eighth on the WSB grid’
weekend for Shakey Byrne Two lots of champagne in what could be a pivotal
Cadwell saw Leon blitz the lap record