The Be Wiser Ducati team and Shane Byrne gave their season a kick-start today at Oulton Park with an historic 1-2 finish in race two of the day.
Byrne has had a tough start to the new season, after missing the opening round with a concussion and crashing out Brands Hatch, and knew that he needed to pick up some podium points in Cheshire.
Byrne started race one from pole position but fell back behind Leon Haslam at the start of the race. Byrne remained in close quarters to his rival throughout the race but was unable to upset the leader’s rhythm, instead settling for his first podium of the season.
Speaking about race one, Byrne said: “I was very conscious of having hardly any points and no podium credits coming into this weekend and although Leon was setting a very good pace, for two thirds of the first race I was happy to sit with him.
“In the end, it was getting a bit hairy and I really needed the points so settled for second. If I’d have pushed any harder, I’d have been upside down!”
Byrne was full of confidence heading into race two and once again found himself in second place throughout the early stages. After piling the pressure on James Ellison for the lead, he ended up making his move on lap six, on the way down to Shell.
The reigning champion began to edge away from Ellison and the improving Haslam in the latter stages of the race. The chasing duo’s efforts would soon come to an end, with Ellison’s engine failure leading to Haslam crashing into the back of him.
Byrne took the chequered flag to take his 78th career victory and move to within three points of the Showdown positions.
The five-time champion added: “We made a few changes to the bike in between races and I changed my line going into Hizzy’s and everything finally came together. I thought the tyres might drop off towards the end and it took me a while to work out what had happened to Leon and James when my lead shot up but once I had, I was able to bring the bike home.
“We’ve had the speed the whole time and have just been unlucky so, hopefully, all of our bad luck is behind us now and we can start winning more races and claw back the podium credits.”
Joining Byrne on the podium was Glenn Irwin, completing the Paul Bird Motorsport team’s first-ever 1-2 finish with Ducati machinery.
The Ulsterman sensed a podium spot once Ellison and Haslam were taken out of proceedings and got his head down, getting the better of Christian Iddon and Jason O’Halloran in the process.
In the opening race, Irwin had occupied fifth position for the majority of the race and looked like he’d challenge for the podium but he struggled in the closing stages with tyre issues and ended up back in ninth.
Looking back over the day, Irwin said: “Both races were tough but for different reasons and although I had the pace in the first race I wasn’t able to make a pass or attack like I wanted. The team worked really hard between the two races and the bike in the second race was an absolute dream.
“It took me a while to get my confidence and I was nearly in the campsite on one occasion when I ran wide at turn one but I regrouped and picked them off one by one. It was tough battling with such a big group of riders but I’m over the moon with second.”
The second place finish in race two means that Irwin is now fifth in the standings, on 63 points, just four points behind Josh Brookes in fourth spot.
The MCE British Superbike Championship now takes a six-week break and will return at Knockhill over the weekend of June 16-18.