SHAKEY READY FOR ASSEN RUMBLE
Byrne hungry for title number five as showdown heads to Assen
Shane Byrne heads into the is penultimate round of the 2016 MCE British Superbike Championship at Assen this weekend with a 27-point advantage over Leon Haslam, but the four-time British champ knows he can’t rest on his laurels.
The very nature of BSB’S Showdown is to pile on the pressure over the last three rounds – with each of the top six riders in with a shout of taking the crown. Over the years the Showdown has thrown up countless surprises, and 2016 is no exception as Haslam found out last time out at Donington when an unforced error saw him crash out of the fight for the lead in the second race.
Having fought for the BSB title each year since rejoining the series from WSB in 2011, Byrne knows all too well he can’t get carried away, despite having more than a race win’s worth of points in hand over Haslam with five races remaining.
“You can’t take anything for granted in BSB,” he told MCN just before heading out cycling with wife Petra. “I’ve been to Assen with a 27-point lead before, crashed in the race while my rival won, and seen the lead shrink to two points.
“I had a bad weekend at Oulton and a good weekend at Donington, while it was the reverse for Leon. We both need to go to Assen with the same mindset, looking to beat each other and hopefully there will be some really hard-but-fair races. There’s no way whatsoever we can back off just because we have a bit of a buffer. BSB doesn’t work like that, we’ve seen too many twists and turns time and time again.
“Assen has been mixed for me in the past. There was the year I lost all the points and then also the year Alex Lowes knocked me off! However, it’s been good too. In 2012 we went there three weeks after breaking my collarbone, but I was determined to get back in the title fight and won the first race!
“The good thing is the fast, flowing nature of the track should suit the Ducati really well. The other thing is that Leon’s advantages on us are in the heavy braking zones. Not only is he really late on the brakes, he’s not afraid to make a lunge! He’ll come from quite a way back and push you both a little bit wide but in a way that he manages to keep the inside.
“Fortunately there are only a few places like that at Assen, but it wouldn’t be ideal to have Leon close behind you into the hairpin on the last lap. That being said, I did overtake him at the Esses and into the loop at Donington, which are two of the hardest braking points on the track.”
Byrne might be fighting for a record fifth BSB title, but he’s adamant he’s still as hungry as he was when he fought for his first crown 13 years ago.
“I know how good it feels to win a British Superbike title. I know how good it feels to take two, three and I also know how good it feels to take four. I guess you could argue that the novelty might wear off a bit after winning so many and suggest that someone, like Leon, who hasn’t won a title, might be a big hungrier than me… but that’s rubbish! I can assure you winning these titles is like a drug that will not wear off. I want to win this fifth title more than I wanted to win the fourth.”
‘There was the year I lost all the points and the year Alex Lowes knocked me off’ SHANE BYRNE
Byrne is the man of the moment but anything can happen in the Showdown