Reigning BSB Champions HM Plant Honda made a winning start to their 2011 campaign after Shane 'Shakey' Byrne took victory in race one at Brands Hatch.
After starting from pole, Byrne lost the lead to Michael Laverty and was forced to take evasive action when the Swan Yamaha rider crashed out on lap 11. 'Shakey' still managed to recover and took victory by 1.154 from Tommy Hill.
In the second race of the day, Byrne produced a solid ride to take third place behind Hill and Ryuichi Kiyonari and Byrne later admitted that his desire to take another win had cost him second place to his teammate.
“I was able to lead for a few laps and I was pushing but then Tommy came past me and I wanted to get back to the front. I had been losing to Tommy a bit coming out of Clearways and then with three laps to go I got a better drive out of the corner. As we approached Paddock Hill Bend I thought 'I can make this' then I realised 'no you can't' so I had to scrub off some speed which lost me the place. It was one of those things, but to come away from here with a first and a third ahead of Oulton Park next weekend is a good start to the season and all credit has to go to the HM Plant Honda team.”
Kiyonari's day didn't get off to the best start after a crash in morning warm-up. The HM Plant Honda mechanics were just able to get the Fireblade out in time for race one but the reigning champion was forced to retire with a technical problem.
Race two saw a change in fortunes as Kiyonari made a late charge to push his teammate down into third place, and coming within 0.142s of catching race winner Tommy Hill.
The Japanese rider conceded his morning accident had spoilt what had promised to be a great weekend, but was relieved to salvage a strong result in race two.
“There was big damage to the bike so the team had lots of work to do to get it ready again in time for the first race. Then in race one I had a problem with the bike and had to stop which was disappointing as I wanted to win, we had been fast over practice and qualifying and I knew we could. In race two I had a big gap to close and I just ran out of time, but I was happy to be on the podium again. I wanted to win to dedicate to my friend Kouki Takahashi who died this weekend in an accident back in Japan. We were good friends and so I try and win at Oulton Park for him.”
After the opening weekend of the series, Byrne sits second in the Championship with 41 points, four behind Hill, with Kiyonari in fourth place with 20 points.
HM Plant Honda also made a good start to their National Superstock 1000 campaign with Jason O'Halloran finishing second after narrowly finishing on the losing side of a race-long duel with Danny Buchan.
“The start was good and I tried to stay consistent” explained the Australian. “I got to the front but then Danny came back and passed me. I sat behind him and then I was able to get him back, but then he got by again. On the last lap I just wanted to make a move at Clearways but I just didn't get on the throttle fast enough and he had just a little more speed than me on the exit. It was a great race, the Fireblade was excellent and I am happy to be on the podium for HM Plant Honda at my first race with the team.”
After a difficult winter, Team Manager Havier Beltran praised his team's efforts and is looking forward to a successful season.
“If we were to go back four weeks I wouldn't have believed we would be running at such a pace with Shakey and Kiyo qualifying under the lap record. Jason has also done a superb job this weekend and all credit must go to the team and riders for their hard work over the winter and this weekend, in sometimes difficult circumstances. We have more to come from both us and the Honda CBR1000RR and now we are looking forward to next weekend at Oulton Park.”
Photo credit: Tom Hughes – www.HughesVisuals.co.uk