Shane Byrne leads the charge to Oulton Park as long weekend battle beckons in Cheshire
The MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship hits Cheshire this Bank Holiday weekend (April 30 – May 2) as the UK’s biggest motorsport series returns to Oulton Park – the circuit that has produced some of the closest finishes in history.
Four-time champion Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne leads the standings ahead of the second round of the championship and the Be Wiser Ducati ace is gunning for his first victory of the season as he prepares for his 300th race start.
“We had a really positive test last week at Knockhill and Be Wiser Ducati have definitely kept up the progress we have been making since pre-season testing. The conditions there were certainly among the best I’ve ever seen at Knockhill; in fact I don’t really think it could have been any better!
“People shouldn’t take anything away from me or my team, we want to win many more races than we have in any other year and I want to win title at the end of the season and I know I am not going to do that by dolloping around in fifth or sixth place so we’ll do all we possibly can to ensure that we can at least maintain the momentum we’ve started with so far.
“We had two second place finishes at Silverstone which was a really, really good start for us so if we can come out that strong for the first round and maintain that level or even better with wins, then we can really get the season kick started at Oulton Park.”
Tyco BMW’s Michael Laverty, the winner of the opening race of the season, and his podium-finishing team-mate Christian Iddon, are both aiming to seize the advantage in the two races on Bank Holiday Monday as they currently hold second and third place in the standings respectively.
However one rider with unfinished business is Leon Haslam; on his return from the World Championship the ‘Pocket Rocket’ had a dream start by claiming pole position with the JG Speedfit Kawasaki team, but he scored a single fifth place due to a technical problem. He is now ready to make amends this weekend after setting the pace at the recent official test.
“I felt really confident at Silverstone and I felt that the win was definitely on the cards, we had pole position, everything was going perfectly to plan and then we had a technical issue in race one and then problems in race two meant it was a no go. Yes we had a fifth place but it was nothing what I expected for myself for that weekend.
“We have erased that weekend now and treat Oulton Park as the first round for me. It will be a bit more demanding and challenging to get into this track compared to Silverstone, as it has been a few years since I raced here, but we need to get the bike working at these circuits so that was why the test was so useful for me.
“It was a good sign to leave the official test fastest and we didn’t do our best time at the start, but seven or eight laps into a run which was also a positive especially with the traffic. I am looking forward to the challenge that Oulton Park brings and I can’t wait to get started.”
Peter Hickman was victorious at the opening round and he is keen to maintain his position ahead of his JG Speedfit Kawasaki team-mates Haslam and James Ellison, who was a podium finisher at the corresponding round here last year.
Honda Racing’s home hero Jenny Tinmouth will be aiming for points at her local circuit, but her team-mates Dan Linfoot and Jason O’Halloran will be pushing to score their first podium finishes of the season after narrowly missing out at Silverstone.
Tommy Bridewell was a race winner last year at Oulton Park and he will have high hopes of a strong event with the Bennetts Suzuki team after a positive end to their test last week; his team-mate Ryuichi Kiyonari remains one of the riders to celebrate the most success at the circuit and the Japanese contender will also be hoping that history can repeat itself.
Another pairing ready to fight this weekend is 2011 champion Tommy Hill’s ePayMe Yamaha squad as John Hopkins returns to the track where he claimed his first MCE BSB victory in 2011 and is hungry to return to the sharp end as will his team-mate Stuart Easton.
“I am actually really looking forward to this weekend as I feel that the time we set at the test didn’t truly reflect the positivity of the official test. We had tested on used tyres as usual, because consistency is what is important over race distance. It was the first time that we had really made big changes to the chassis setting, so we did lots of shorter runs of like five laps, come in and change, then repeat the process. I feel that we left the official test with a better base setting than we had at Silverstone, even though we had a crash which ended the day a little early before we had the chance to try for an outright lap.
“I feel that we have made big steps forward; as I have said before, the potential is massive with the Yamaha and I feel that we are getting closer to scratching that surface now and we plan to pick up where we left off at the test on Saturday.
“Oulton Park is a track that I really like and have great memories of because it was where I scored my first BSB race win so I am excited to get back there this weekend. I feel that it should suit the Yamaha’s characteristics; we didn’t get the start to the season we had hoped for at Silverstone so we want to put it all together this weekend and get to where we know we are capable of being in the races.”
MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship standings
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