Shane Byrne made it six podiums in eight races to extend his lead in the British Superbike Championship but HM Plant Honda teammate Ryuichi Kiyonari's title hopes suffered a blow after a difficult weekend at Thruxton.
Byrne would never have dreamt of first and third after an accident in Q1 forced him to start Monday's first race at the back of the grid. The Londoner scythed his way through the field to score a podium finish, only missing out on second by 0.052s.
Starting race two from pole, Byrne left his rivals trailing as he made best use of a clear track in wet and slippery conditions. The 34 year old even had time to set the fastest lap on his way to victory by over ten seconds.
“That was the first time I had ridden the HM Plant Honda Fireblade in the wet conditions and I have to say it was great” he added. “I had some real vision problems with my visor and to be honest I couldn't read my pit board and I only knew it was the last lap because I saw the flag on the start line. I thought 'oh no it's the last lap' and I couldn't have pushed it any harder. I had a good battle with Michael [Rutter] but race two was a bit easier as I started from pole rather than the back of the grid!”
“After the first race I was desperate to get to the front and just ride my own race. I was smoother and the HM Plant Honda Fireblade was on rails so I couldn't have been happier. The track was quite grippy and once I got to the front I was comfortable and in a rhythm. I think I could have even gone faster if I pushed a bit but it has been a great weekend and all credit to the team. I can't wait for Knockhill now.”
On the second HM Plant Honda, Ryuichi Kiyonari was left to rue the wet conditions which cancelled out the progress he had made on his dry set-up. The Japanese rider has now slipped out of the top six in the BSB standings and admits he needs to improve if he is to retain his title.
“This weekend we were feeling better after free practice and finding more confidence and we had good settings for the dry conditions. Then it rained for the races and it was disappointing as we had the same problem in both. We had tried different settings compared to Croft but I just couldn't get the confidence to push harder and it was at times a bit scary for me. We will work hard to be fast again at the next round as we need to fight for the championship.”
Team Manager Havier Beltran was delighted after another winning weekend for the team, and is confident he will see both riders at the front next time out at Knockhill.
“After his crash in qualifying Shakey was confident that he could still be up the front fighting for a podium in the races today; he proved to be right and it made it interesting to watch his progress throughout the race. To come through from the back of the grid to third was an outstanding feat, but it could have been a different story if he had qualified better. It showed how confident Shakey is at the moment and he was obviously then ready to challenge for the win in the second race. In race two he again showed his confidence and demonstrated the strength of the HM Plant Honda Fireblade to lead by such a margin so all credit to him.”
“With Kiyo we thought had turned it around this weekend and could be running back at the front; he did laps and we were working on the set-up but we are still not completely there. It is obviously not where we need to be; we have the belief in him and know he can perform outstandingly so we need to resolve it for Knockhill.”
Byrne's third victory of 2011 gives him a 15 point lead over Crescent Suzuki's John Hopkins but Kiyonari's recent problems have left him 71 points adrift in seventh and in danger of missing out on the end of season showdown.