Shane Byrne leaves his British Superbike rivals trailing in his wake at Snetterton
Shane Byrne owned Snetterton as he doubled up for the first time in Norfolk – and made British Superbike history along the way.
The three-times champion won both races in Norfolk on Sunday – the 12th double of his career to equal Ryuichi Kiyonari’s record, and his third win in three races at Snetterton.
In fact, it was Byrne’s 56th Superbikes victory – another record for a true legend of the sport.
The man known as Shakey was anything but, as he added supreme present form to a career of success. Byrne extended his championship lead to main rival, Milwaukee Kawasaki’s Josh Brookes, and has won five of this year’s six races.
Judging by Snetterton, it will take some effort to stop the Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki rider from taking a record fourth title – even after just three rounds.
“I’ll take that – I did just do a double,” smiled Byrne, whose exuberant second-race celebrations said it all. “Towards the end of that second race we were getting quicker and got a bit of a gap, and then the last couple of laps we were getting a bit sketchy – so I was quite pleased to see the chequered flag in the end.
“I didn’t know Josh had gone out until I got back but in all honesty at this point in the season, a championship lead means absolutely nothing.
“This weekend has been great for us and our cause, and I’m just concentrating on getting those wins in the bag at the moment.”
The meeting looked like being Shakey’s from the start, having dominated free practice and then setting a new lap record to take pole in Saturday’s qualifying.
And the three-times British Superbike champion looked in consummate control of Sunday’s opening race, running from lights to flag at the front of the 16 laps.
But there was plenty of action going on behind. A messy start saw five riders out after the opening handful of corners, as Honda’s one-off return for Snetterton made an auspicious start with Julien da Costa twitching at the Montreal hairpin. It ended his race and that of Millsport Ducati’s Jakub Smrz.
Bathams BMW veteran Michael Rutter and the Gearlink Kawasaki of Ben Wilson also crashed out after slips at Palmer.
With safety car done and action resumed, it supposed to be Brookes challenging Byrne – but the Australian was having to defend second with Lloyds GB moto’s James Ellison.
Eventually Brookes set off to pursue Shakey, and the gap under one second when Brookes gave it too much at Oggies and left the track – leaving Byrne to claim the win.
Byrne dedicated it to fallen riders Karl Harris and Marham’s RAF Reserves rider Simon Andrews – both killed in events since the previous Superbikes round at Oulton Park.
A stunning flypast from B-17 Flying Fortress Sally-B and a rasping tornado also paid tribute, as the pair’s vacant bikes sat at the front of the race one grid in touching remembrance.
The second race enjoyed a neater start, although there was still a lap-one retirement for James Westmoreland and a nasty highside for Patric Muff that fortunately saw the Pole avoid injury.
Brookes flew ahead of pole-sitter Byrne into the first corner, but also lost his way as he sparred for second with team-mate Tommy Bridewell.
The Australian bagged a new lap record and he hunted down Byrne again. But with three laps to go, Brookes was too eager – a spectacular highside left him winder, unhurt but out of the race.
Byrne secured his double. Ellison took Bridewell with a stunning move around Corum on the penultimate lap to break his run of five thirds in five 2014 races. And Bridewell completed his first podium of the year.
Fitting ends to another thrilling weekend of Superbikes action at Snetterton.
Norwich’s Morello Services PBR Kawasaki had a mixed weekend at their home race, with John Ingram turning 24th on the grid to a 16th finish in race one – but race two ended with retirement after just one lap.