The Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki team enjoyed a positive day's racing at Silverstone this weekend with Shane 'Shakey' Byrne taking a first and second place to maintain his lead in the race for the 2014 MCE British Superbike Championship and team-mate Stuart Easton securing two top six finishes to do the same in the MCE BSB Riders' Cup.
Triple MCE BSB champion Byrne, from Sittingbourne, qualified in second place on the grid in changeable conditions aboard the Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R, but today's opening race was befitting of its Showdown billing with Shakey, Ryuichi Kiyonari and Josh Brookes wheel to wheel throughout.
There was nothing between the trio as they left the rest of the field behind and, in a race that saw the lead change hands seven times on the final lap alone, it was 37-year-old Byrne who ultimately came out on top to record his 59th MCE BSB career win to up his points advantage to 17 over main title rival Kiyonari.
The second race saw the same three riders go head to head until Brookes crashed out leaving Shakey and Kiyonari to contest the lead all the way until the end. Shakey sat behind the Japanese rider until the closing stages, looking to make his move, but he was unable to make it stick and Kiyonari took the narrow win to claw back the five points he'd earlier lost and to maintain the 12 point gap between the two riders going into the final round at Brands Hatch in two weeks' time.
Meanwhile, 30-year-old Easton had another strong weekend to edge one step closer to securing the MCE BSB Riders' Cup, awarded to the rider who finishes in seventh overall. The reigning British Supersport Champion from Hawick started the first 14-lap race from 11th on the grid and as the race wore on, with a series of overtaking manoeuvres, he was able to move through the pack. Dicing for fourth place, he missed out on that position to fellow Kawasaki rider Dan Linfoot; meaning fifth place was an excellent result.
Despite the strong result, he still found himself on the fourth row for the second race but it ultimately followed a similar pattern. Another strong start saw him leap up the order to eighth by the end of the first lap and by half race distance he was up to sixth, holding onto the position all the way to the chequered flag.
On his debut for the Penrith-based team, multiple TT winner Ian Hutchinson was in action aboard the Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R in the Pirelli National Superstock Championship where he finished in a battling 20th position. The Bingley rider qualified in 27th place following a weather-affected qualifying session and will hope to improve at the final round at Brands Hatch.
Shane Byrne: "The first race was so much fun but it was hard work battling with Kiyo and Josh and exactly what we needed after Assen. Kiyo's been incredibly strong this weekend and with Josh in the mix too, there was a lot of overtaking going on. I had a slight moment on the final lap, and then Kiyo had one too, but I braked slightly later at the end of the straight and held on for the win. The second race was equally good fun and to get first and second in races like that is no bad thing. We were both on the limit and I had a plan but the race was quicker than the first one and the margins of reserve not as great so when I had a little slide on the last lap, I just couldn't quite make the move I wanted. Fair play to Kiyo, he held on for the win and we now go to the final round at Brands Hatch where I'm sure there'll be more of the same."
Stuart Easton: "With fifth and sixth places from the two races, it's been a solid weekend and I'm happy enough with the outcome. The grid positions in both races really hindered me as I think I had the pace to potentially challenge for a podium but when you start on the fourth row, you simply lose too much time in the early laps. I was really pleased with how I came through the field and I ended up with two strong finishes and maintained my seventh place in the championship. We've three races at Brands Hatch so it will be a tough weekend but I'll be looking to secure the Riders' Cup to end the year positively."
Ian Hutchinson: "It's been a tough weekend as we've not had much time on the bike and losing a session to the weather was the last thing we needed, especially when most others had the round at the MotoGP round here also. The Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R is a great bike and we'll look for an improvement at Brands Hatch."
Paul Bird, Team Owner: "It was a great weekend for us and I'm happy with the results. We knew it was going to be tough and it was exactly that but our bike was good and Shakey did what he needed to in order to protect his lead. We have 12 points more that Kiyo meaning we are in a better position than his team so the pressure is on them to beat us. Brands Hatch is our best track and Shakey's local track so we are very confident whatever the conditions throw at us. Stuart continued his end of season form and had we had more track time, Hutchy's result would have been much better."
MCE British Superbike Championship Race One - 14 laps
1 Shane Byrne (Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki)
2 Ryuichi Kiyonari (BMW)
3 Josh Brookes (Yamaha)
4 Dan Linfoot (Kawasaki)
5 Stuart Easton (Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki)
6 Julien Da Costa (Honda)
MCE British Superbike Championship Race Two - 14 laps
1 Ryuichi Kiyonari (BMW)
2 Shane Byrne (Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki)
3 James Ellison (Kawasaki)
4 Tommy Bridewell (Yamaha)
5 Josh Waters (Kawasaki)
6 Stuart Easton (Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki)
Championship Points (after eleven rounds)
1 Byrne 632pts
2 Kiyonari 620
3 Brookes 552
4 Bridewell 550
5 Linfoot 546
6 Walker 513
7 Easton 197
The Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki MCE British Superbike Championship Team is running alongside the PBM MotoGP Team with riders Michael Laverty and Broc Parkes. Additionally, Paul Bird is running a full campaign in the REIS BTRDA Rally Series as well as selected International events in his Ford Focus WRC07. Both bike racing teams are sporting the colours of British Racing Green in deference to the team's proud British heritage.
For more information, please visit www.britishsuperbike.com and www.pbmuk.net.
Pictures: Jon Jessop Photograph