HM Plant Honda's Shane Byrne took over the lead of the 2011 British Superbike Championship after a consistent display at Oulton Park.
That outcome seemed impossible after qualifying when Byrne qualified seventh, 1.211s slower than Tommy Hill, who entered the weekend four points ahead of Byrne.
But the Swan Yamaha rider injured his shoulder in the warm-up, allowing Byrne to overhaul him in the standings with a fourth place finish in race one.
'Shakey' then overcame a trip through the grass early in race two to take the final podium position, snatching it from teammate Ryuichi Kiyonari on the final lap.
“I am so pleased to have finished on the podium in the second race” said the 34-year-old. “After Saturday's free practice sessions when we were running outside the top ten I would have taken the offer of a fourth and a third – in fact I would have bitten your arm of for it! The boys in the HM Plant Honda garage and at Motec did such a good job to get us up the sharp end today for the races.”
“There were a couple of moments when I got a raw deal with riders heading off the track, but there were a few I also benefitted from. Everyone was jostling for positions out there and I was able to make the most of it and get the HM Plant Honda Fireblade on the podium. We really turned things around this weekend and to have the lead in the championship ahead of Croft is a good result after everyone's hard work here at Oulton Park.”
Meanwhile, Kiyonari got his title defence up and running with a wonderful ride to victory in the first race of the day. The Japanese rider made serene progress from ninth on the grid, overtaking the sole remaining Swan Yamaha of Michael Laverty at Lodge corner with seven laps to go before cruising home.
Race two saw a reversal of fortunes as he made a poor start from pole position, dropping all the way to seventh. A safety car period following a spectacular accident for Josh Brookes brought Kiyonari back into play at the front of the order, but teammate Byrne denied him a third consecutive podium within sight of the flag.
“Today I was happy with the first race, but not so much with the second race!” Kiyo admitted. “We made an improvement with the setting over night and the team worked very hard so I have lots to thank them for. I had a better feeling with the bike today and I was quite surprised that all the riders were quite equal. I was happy to be winning again, but in race two we just couldn't repeat it. I had a small problem and I couldn't push as hard as I needed to. I couldn't stay at the front but we scored consistent points which are so important and now we look for more at Croft.”
Kiyonari is now a point behind second placed Stuart Easton, who trails Byrne in the BSB Standings by 11 points. Race two winner John Hopkins is fourth, two points behind the reigning champion.
HM Plant Team Manager Havier Beltran paid tribute to the work of the mechanics after improving the pace of the Fireblade machine that was off the pace in practice.
“The whole HM Plant Honda team have worked hard throughout the weekend to put both Kiyo and Shakey in a position to challenge for the wins and it paid off today. Kiyo had a great win in the first race and then Shakey was back on the podium in the second race and now leads the championship so both riders were consistent and that shows in the standings.”
In the National Superstock 1000 race, Jason O'Halloran was unable to convert an early lead into race victory, ending an eventual fifth. The Australian was still happy with a solid points haul, and lies third in the championship, ten points behind Oulton Park winner Tristan Palmer and 14 behind Danny Buchan
“The race was ok but we just had a few issues that we hadn't managed to overcome for today. We were struggling on some sections of the circuit, but we now know where we need to improve before the next round at Croft to bridge the gap. We just chipped away in the race and for me and the HM Plant Honda team we needed to ensure we scored consistent points for the championship which is what we achieved at the end of the day. We will now just get ready to be back up and fighting at Croft.”