Shane Byrne clinched his third British Superbike Championship in sensational style, winning the third race of the weekend at Brands Hatch to complete an outstanding hat-trick. The Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki rider overtook Josh Brookes two laps from home to beat the Australian by 28 points in the final reckoning.
Starting from the second row, Byrne would’ve had every reason to be nervous even though he only required thirteenth place. Brookes, the only man with a chance of overhauling him, comfortably lead around Paddock Hill bend on lap one while a lightning start from Byrne launched him up to second ahead of Michael Laverty and Alex Lowes, no doubt calming the nerves.
Byrne shadowed Brookes throughout but the Londoner set off the nerves in the Paul Bird garage by attacking his title rival in the closing stages, even though he didn’t have to. At the start of the penultimate lap, ‘Shakey’ had a look up the inside of Brookes’ Suzuki, only to back off, but a terrific drive out of Surtees allowed him to breeze past on the way down Pilgrims Drop.
It was fortunate that Byrne had broken clear of Laverty and Lowes as the fight for third boiled over on the last lap. Lowes drew alongside Laverty under braking for Paddock Hill bend but the 22 year old touched the inside kerb, sending him and the Ulsterman into the gravel trap.
Byrne was safe though and came home a jubilant and deserving winner, 0.328s ahead of a gallant Brookes with outgoing champion Tommy Hill profiting from the last lap collision to grab third both in the race, and in the championship.
The day belonged to Byrne though who paid tribute to his team for assisting him on the road to title glory, drawing him level with two legends of the championship.
“That’s not bad for a weekend’s work and whereas the previous two British titles I’ve won have been wrapped up well in advance this one went right down to the final race so it’s probably the hardest. I’d like to pay tribute to the team for giving me the tools to do the business this season and it’s great to work with Paul Bird once again. What it now means is I have to think about coming back here next year to defend the title as I’d like to beat the record of three championship victories achieved by Niall Mackenzie and Ryuichi Kiyonari!”
Team Owner Paul Bird was overwhelmed with emotion after the race and was especially happy for Kawasaki who ended their own victory drought.
“This is our best championship win to date and to win both the British Superbike Championship and the Superstock 1000 Championship, we have also won most races which is testament to the team who have done a brilliant job. It’s also good to secure Kawasaki’s first BSB title for 20 years. Considering the pressure Shakey was under he rode exceptionally well and to go out and win the final race when he didn’t need to was simply amazing. These are exciting times for the team and we would love to retain Shakey’s services next year, whether it be in MotoGP or BSB as we will be contesting both championships again. We said we were only coming back to win the title and that’s what we have done and I’d like to pay tribute to our sponsors, especially Rapid Solicitors and everyone else who has made this possible, you all know who you are.”