THE DE­FEND­ING CHAM­PION

Five-times win­ner Shakey is the first man ev­ery­one has to beat

Performance Bikes (UK) - - Bsb Season Preview -

THE 2017 Bri­tish Su­per­bike cham­pi­onship is shap­ing up to be one of the tough­est sea­sons yet, and while that’s be­come a racing cliché over the years, this time it’s for real. A five-times Bri­tish cham­pion, the 2014 World Su­per­bike cham­pion, mul­ti­ple WSB race win­ners and nu­mer­ous Bri­tish and na­tional cham­pi­ons line up on the grid this year, mak­ing one of the most com­pet­i­tive fields BSB has ever seen. A quick glance at the en­try list and PB reck­ons there are at least 15 riders ca­pa­ble of mak­ing the top six show­down.

Of course, the man they all want to beat is the bloke with the tar­get on his back: reign­ing cham­pion Shane Byrne, who re­turns to BSB af­ter clinch­ing a record­break­ing fifth ti­tle for PBM Du­cati last year.

Byrne has fin­ished ei­ther first or sec­ond in the se­ries for the last five years, and with 79 wins un­der his belt – more than any other rider – he is the odds-on favourite to clinch yet an­other ti­tle as he heads into 2017 with the same bike he rode to vic­tory last year.

How­ever, dom­i­nant as he may seem, Byrne has never suc­cess­fully de­fended a Bri­tish ti­tle. On the two

oc­ca­sions he has re­turned to the se­ries af­ter clinch­ing the crown (2013 and 2015), while he came close, he couldn’t quite man­age two in a row.

“I don’t re­ally know why I’ve not won back-to-back ti­tles; I can tell you it’s not through lack of try­ing!” he re­torts as we ask him about the ‘year on, year off’ pat­tern that’s formed over the last four years (Byrne won ti­tles in 2012, 2014 and 2016).

“That be­ing said, as a racer of course I have lit­tle things I want to tick off and win­ning back-to-back ti­tles would be a nice box to tick. Only Niall Macken­zie and Kiyo have done it, so it’d be cool to join that clan.”

While the odds are in Byrne’s favour at the start of the year, with most of his ri­vals hav­ing to get to grips with some form of change (whether it be a new bike, team or even cham­pi­onship) the level of com­pe­ti­tion is high.

For­mer WSB man Leon Haslam pushed him hard in 2016 and with the man who beat him two years ago, Josh Brookes, back for the sea­son ahead, as well as 2014 WSB cham­pion Guin­toli join­ing the fray, Byrne knows it won’t be an easy task. But that only spurs him on.

“I think it’s amaz­ing to see these big names com­ing to our cham­pi­onship,” he said. “Ab­so­lutely no­body can ques­tion the level of our se­ries when the bloke who won WSB three years ago is com­ing to race against us.

“Leon came back last year af­ter win­ning the last race of the 2015 WSB sea­son and he won as many races as me, but fin­ished sec­ond. WSB race wins don’t come on the back of Frosties pack­ets so that just shows the level of racing we have here in BSB.

“At the mo­ment it’s too dif­fi­cult to say who’s go­ing to fight for the ti­tle. What’s to say one or more of these new bikes or teams isn’t go­ing to take such a huge step for­ward that it’s dif­fi­cult for me to even stay in the top six? At the same time, they might be shit! One thing’s for sure – it’ll all be­come clear soon...”

‘WHAT’S TO SAY ONE OF THESE NEW TEAMS ISN’T GO­ING TO TAKE SUCH A HUGE STEP FOR­WARD THAT I CAN’T STAY IN THE TOP SIX?‘

Even Byrne doesn’t know who’ll be clos­est to his Ter­mis at round one

Shakey – along with most of the paddock – has been rack­ing up the miles in pre-sea­son tests in Spain

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