Byrne beats Brookes to top opening practice at the Battle of Brands Hatch
Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne delivered the first blow at the final round of the MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship by topping the free practice times, leading title rival Josh Brookes by just 0.188s as the pair were split by Howie Mainwaring.
Brookes leads the standings ahead of tomorrow’s opening race on the Grand Prix circuit and the Australian starts the weekend in the strongest position, however, home contender Byrne has the psychological advantage after staying ahead after the two opening free practice sessions in damp conditions.
Closing in on the leading trio in the final session was JG Speedfit Kawasaki’s James Ellison who is determined to strike back after missing out on the podium twice at the previous round of Silverstone, he held off Richard Cooper and the second Milwaukee Yamaha of Jakub Smrz.
Michael Laverty moved up to seventh for the Tyco BMW team as he pushed Josh Waters and the Bennetts Suzuki squad back to eighth. Former MotoGP contender John Hopkins and the Lloyds British Moto Rapido Ducati team made it five manufacturers inside the top ten with rookie Luke Mossey holding tenth spot ahead of tomorrow’s Datatag Qualifying and crucial opening MCE BSB race.
The MCE BSB season finale continues with Datatag Qualifying session and first MCE BSB race of the weekend tomorrow (Saturday 17 October). The Main Raceday on Sunday (18 October) will feature the final two MCE BSB races and a further five support races before the champions are crowned and the spectators are invited onto the track to enjoy the end of season celebrations.
Josh Brookes (Milwaukee Yamaha) – 3rd – Championship leader: 653 points – “This morning it was wet, but the cold temperature made it hard to be confident. You had to do your best lap when you came out of the pits, yet you didn’t want to risk too much, because in conditions like that the tyre will get cooler on its side.
“This afternoon was completely different, with the track drying out. We still had low temperatures, but because it hadn’t rained all day, the track was starting to dry. The wet tyre was squirming around, but with the cold temperatures we couldn’t use an intermediate or a slick.
“It was almost like motocross – on every lap that you came around, the track conditions had changed. Today the track was changing quicker than you could change the setup on the bike. You might go in for a tyre to suit a wet track, but the next time you went back it was patchy, and there was a clear drying line. We will keep working tomorrow and then we will be ready for race one.”
Shane Byrne (PBM Kawasaki) – 606 points – “The conditions this morning were obviously a lot wetter than the conditions this afternoon, but this afternoon they weren’t really dry enough to have a go on intermediates or slicks.
“I think it always boils down to who’s prepared to risk the most in conditions like that and I certainly wasn’t up for risking it. I got frustrated at the end because I got stuck in a little bit of traffic that I didn’t seem to be able to get out of and I got one lap on the end on my own and that was enough to go fastest, so, it was a little bit of a surprise. But that said, it’s nice to see P1 at the end of a session for a change!”
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