British Superbike 2008 – Round 11 – Silverstone
Shane Byrne rounded off his Bennetts British Superbike title winning campaign with a pair of victories in the final round at Brands Hatch.

The Airwaves Ducati rider, who had sealed the championship for the second time in five years in the penultimate round, romped to an easy success in the opening 30 lapper, finishing comfortable ahead of HM Plant Honda’s Cal Crutchlow.

“I made a great start then and that made things much easier. I got past Cal and decided to pull the pin and open up a sort of gap straightaway, but then he started to pull me back in so I went for it again, the gap went up and I took the victory,” explained Byrne.

The second race however was a different story with Leon Haslam, still in pain from a shoulder injury sustained in qualifying, making the running and leaving Byrne playing catch up, but the champion was equal to the challenge.

Moving through from fourth, he was second, though two seconds down, at half distance but then turned on the speed and style to reel in the leading HM Plant Honda, snatching the lead on the final lap as they carved through back-markers.

“Leon was riding hard and well, but I just went for it – I think that is the best I’ve ever had but I wanted to end on a winning note,” said a delighted Byrne who reflected on his day at the races.

“The championship was won before this round so I was able to go out there and put on a show. “I’d been careful for the previous four or five rounds because winning the title has been the bigger picture rather than winning races.

“The team put a lot of faith in me when they signed me and winning the title repaid that, and now I’m pleased to give them more successes.”

Byrne is graduating into World Superbikes next year, riding for the Sterilgarda Ducati team, and he reflected: “Winning is the perfect send off for me, my goodbye to the British series for the time being at least but it has been a really enjoyable season and this title means so much to me.”

Haslam, fourth in the opener, and then second to Byrne, finished the season as the overall runner-up, 474-357 down on the champion.

Crutchlow followed his second place in the opener with a fourth, adrift of Leon Camier, next time out to end the campaign in third place overall, 318-316 up on Rizla Suzuki rider Tom Sykes. After taking a sixth place, his season ended on a low, with a technical problem sidelining him in the closing stages.

Gary Mason, riding the Quay Garage Honda, headed Daily Star Cup Champion John Laverty home in the opener, but the Buildbase NW200 Ducati rider took the honours next time out.

Glenn Richards rounded off his Fuchs-Silkolene British Supersport Championship season with victory ahead of Steve Plater and series debutant Josh Brookes – the MAP Embassy Triumph rider, having taken his second title in as many years, having won the 2007 Superstock crown, confirmed that he will be moving into Superbike action next year.

Lee Johnston clinched the Metzeler National Superstock 600 title as he finished the penultimate round in third place adrift of race winner Jimmy Hill and Chris Northover, and then 24 hours later, Johnston celebrated his success with another third place in a race won by Robbie Brown from Matt Bilton.

Second best was just champion for Matthew Hoyle as he sealed the Relentless British 125GP title finishing the final round a couple of seconds down on race winner James Lodge.

Jon Kirkham completed a hat-trick of titles in the Henderson Yamaha R1 Cup as he won the final round, giving him the Autumn Cup to go with the Spring Cup and the overall title that he had already secured prior to this race.

Steve Brogan underlined his supremacy in the Metzeler National Superstock 1000 Championship with a celebratory eighth victory aboard his Honda Fireblade.

SBK Race One
1: Shane Byrne (Ducati) 23:21.717
2: Cal Crutchlow (Honda) +1.892
3: James Ellison (Honda) +2.144
4: Leon Haslam (Honda) +2.190
5: Leon Camier (Ducati) +5.747
6: Tom Sykes (Suzuki) +6.559
7: Michael Rutter (Ducati) +19.335
8: Simon Andrews (Yamaha) +20.002
9: Jon Kirkham (Yamaha) +23.528
10: Tristan Palmer (Honda) +25.241
SBK Race Two
1: Shane Byrne (Ducati) 23:21.124
2: Leon Haslam (Honda) +1.817
3: Leon Camier (Ducati) +4.305
4: Cal Crutchlow (Honda) +8.561
5: James Ellison (Honda) +9.783
6: Michael Rutter (Ducati) +11.400
7: Simon Andrews (Yamaha) +24.265
8: John Laverty (Ducati) +25.844
9: Gary Mason (Honda) +25.867
10: Jon Kirkham (Yamaha) +33.101
Superstock Race
1. Steve Brogan (Honda)
2. Peter Hickman (Yamaha) 0.004
3. Alistair Seeley (Yamaha) 0.36
4. Ben Wilson (Yamaha) 0.70
5. Adrian Coates (Yamaha) 5.90
6. Richard Cooper (Yamaha) 6.18
7. Daniel Hegarty (Yamaha) 8.84
8. Victor Cox (Yamaha) 9.87
9. Steve Mercer (Yamaha) 9.91
10. Lee Jackson (Yamaha) 10.90
Supersport Race
1. Glen Richards (Triumph)
2. Steve Plater (Yamaha) 0.70
3. Josh Brookes (Honda) 8.27
4. James Westmoreland (Honda) 17.36
5. Rob Frost (Triumph) 17.43
6. James Webb (Honda) 17.63
7. Daniel Cooper (Honda) 17.84
8. Ian Lowry (Suzuki) 18.09
9. Chris Martin (Kawasaki) 19.65
10. Hudson Kennaugh (Yamaha) 19.80
SBK Championship
1: Shane Byrne (Ducati) 474
2: Leon Haslam (Honda) 357
3: Cal Crutchlow (Honda) 318
4: Tom Sykes (Suzuki) 316
5: Leon Camier (Ducati) 306
6: Michael Rutter (Ducati) 256
7: James Ellison (Honda) 230
8: Simon Andrews (Yamaha) 176
9: Michael Laverty (Suzuki) 141
10: Tristan Palmer (Honda) 111
Supersport Championship
1. Richards 240
2. Kennaugh 187
3. Lowry 146
4. Westmoreland 136
5. Plater 106
6. Martin 99
7. Webb 87
8. Brogan 85
9. Young 68
10. Frost 63
Superstock Championship
1. Brogan 273
2. Kirkham 215
3. Hickman 125
4. Seeley 108
5. Wilson 103
6. Coates 102
7. Neill 93
8. Jackson 93
9. Cox 75
10. Storrar 56

— SMT Honda —

SMT Honda’s Jason O’Halloran put in two sizzling rides at a sun-drenched Brands Hatch on Sunday, overcoming a lowly qualifying spot to finish 12th and 15th in the final rounds of the 2008 British Superbike Championship. Despite overtaking being extremely difficult around the 1.198-mile Indy circuit, the young Australian fought his way through from 21st on the grid to pick up more championship points and further add to his ever growing credentials.

All three days of action were blessed with clear blue skies and warm sunshine yet grip was proving difficult to find in the practice sessions. Although he had been running consistently in the top 15 in free practice, Jason paid for a lack of grip in the qualifying session and could only manage 21st place meaning he was knocked out after the first phase and would have to settle for a sixth row start.

A much hoped for good start disappeared as the lights turned green at the start of the opening race and Jason found himself in a lowly 26th place at the end of the opening lap. However, with a brilliant display of controlled, clinical racing, Jason continued to overtake those riders in front of him and had made up a staggering 11 places at the chequered flag. Especially good through the Surtees and McLaren sections, Jason and the team were rewarded at the end of the 30 laps with 15th place and a hard earned, and deserved, point.

A better start in the second race saw him consolidate his start position but he soon got into his stride and began to move through the pack, in a similar vein to that of race 2. A superb double overtaking manoeuvre on Guy Martin and Atsushi Watanabe at McLaren on lap 9 saw Jason jump up to 14th place and he continued on his way eventually crossing the line in an excellent 12th place to make it five points scoring finishes from six races.

The result ensured a strong end of the season for SMT Honda and team owner Robin Croft said:
“We really struggled for grip during all of practice and qualifying and with us only starting on 21st on the grid, it’s fair to say I woke up on Sunday with a lot of trepidation! With a 46-secpnd lap, it’s incredibly hard to find room to pass around the Brands Indy circuit so for Jason to finish with 12th and 15th speaks volumes of how excellent he rode and I’m very happy with how the day has gone.”

“It’s been a mixed season and we’ve had some bad luck along the way but we’ve come through it and have finished strongly with Jason so I’m extremely happy with how the season’s ended. We can all look forward to a good break now and we’ll start planning soon for 2009 so it’s a big thank you to all of our sponsors and to everyone that’s been involved this season.”

— Rizla Suzuki Report —

Tom Sykes finished the 2008 Bennetts British Superbike Championship in fourth place after putting on a brave and battling performance at the 12th and final round at Brands Hatch in Kent today.

In the second race Tom was holding fifth place when with five-laps remaining his Rizla Suzuki simply stopped. The Yorkshire-man desperately tried to restart it but to no avail and he could only watch as third in the Championship cruelly slipped from his grasp to Honda’s Cal Crutchlow. Rizla Suzuki rider Atsushi Watanabe finished 14th.

In the first race in bright glorious sunshine, Tom slotted into sixth place at the first corner and held station until the chequered flag at the hilly 1.1986-mile Indy circuit, unable to overtake due to the fast tight nature of the track. Atsu started 12th and fell back to 16th before two retirements promoted him to 14th and a points scoring finish – giving him equal 14th place in the Championship. 2008 British Superbike Champion Shane Byrne won both races on a Ducati.

While it is the end of the British Superbike Championship, Rizla Suzuki will be on track again at the annual Race of the Year at Mallory Park in Leicestershire next Sunday, October 19th. Tom will be the lone Rizla Suzuki racer and is hoping to bring the silverware back to the team for the third consecutive year.

Tom: “That’s not the way I wanted to finish the 2008 season and it is not what the Rizla Suzuki team deserved. My bike simply stopped in the second race with a few laps to go and there was nothing I could do. I am an optimist by nature though and will take the positive from finishing fourth in the Championship and look forward from here. A big thank you to PJ, Stuart, Simon and Dan my technicians for their hard work this year – well done boys, you are brilliant. Thanks also to all the fans and Rizla Suzuki for what has been a great BSB campaign.”

Atsu: “In race one I have lack of grip and push as hard as I can. It is difficult to make drive out of corners onto straights. For race two we make setting change to my Rizla Suzuki which I hope will help but feeling remains the same – no grip. This is not best results to finish season; I had hoped for better. I have enjoyed my first season in BSB and learnt much, thank you to Rizla Suzuki for all its support.”

Jack Valentine, Rizla Suzuki Team Manager: “We came here wanting to finish on a high note but instead we are all disappointed with fourth in the Championship. Tom went out fighting as usual and the fact is we have had a cracking season and will not let this final round tarnish what has been a cohesive, well-executed campaign that has brought the team three wins, numerous podiums and World Superbike champagne as well.
“Thank you to Tom Sykes and Atsushi Watanabe for their determination and effort this year, they have both been a pleasure to work with and I wish them all the best for the future. Thanks also to all of my team, they are winners to a man and I respect every one of them.

“Last but not least, I’d like to thank all of the Rizla Suzuki team sponsors and fans for their support this year. Our plans are already well laid for 2009 and we look forward to welcoming Sylvain Guintoli to the team and challenging for the British Superbike title next year – we hope all of the sponsors and fans will join us again and share in the success.”

— Rob Mac Racing —

Jon Kirkham made an amazing debut on the Rob Mac Racing Yamaha Superbike at the last round of the Bennetts British Superbike Championship this weekend (12 October).

The youngster from Derby was drafted in at the eleventh hour after Karl Harris had to leave the circuit just before the commencement of qualifying. Jon had just finished his Superstock qualifying when he got the call from team principal, Rob McElnea. Despite his other race commitments, Jon stepped up to the challenge to qualify the Rob Mac Racing Yamaha in a very impressive 9th position, having only ever done a handful of laps on the bike at an informal test earlier in the year.

The team had to swallow yet another cruel twist of fate as they looked their most successful weekend of their turbulent season in the face. Harris had been consistently fastest all weekend and looked sure to put the Yamaha YZF-R1 on the top spot of the podium.

Race One was the first time Jon had performed a race start on the bike, despite getting away with a pack of riders he dropped back to 13th and had his work cut out to regain his top ten place. Ever the professional, Jon focused on the task ahead and chipped away at his lap times, making progress on Billy McConnell ahead of him. By mid race, Jon managed to make up the place and started to pull a gap on the riders behind. Settling into his rhythm Jon overtook Tristan Palmer for 11th but had over a 2 second gap for a top ten finish. Despite his best attempts the gap was out of his reach. But with Michael Laverty retiring and a crash from Stuart Easton, Kirkham regained his start position, crossing the line in a very respectable 9th.

A better start in race two enabled Jon to get away with the top 10, quickly elevating himself into 8th position on the first lap. With the vastly experienced Superbike grid around him, Jon fought a hard battle to stay within the top 10. By lap 3 he saved a slide, which resulted in a cramp in his right leg, his progress faltered till mid race but by then he had dropped a few places to 12th. Sheer grit and determination saw Kirkham dig deep to regain a place and reward himself and the team with a double top 10 finish on his Superbike debut.

Jon Kirkham: “I finished my R1 and Superstock practice yesterday, Rob called me and said get to the garage in your leathers and helmet and before I knew it I was in Role for Pole! I realistically thought that I could get into the second session but to qualify the whole way thorough and into 9th was a dream. I wasn’t sure whether to do the R1 Cup race but decided to try for the Autumn Cup and got that. I got a bad start in the first Superbike race and had a lot of work to do but managed 9th. The second race I struggled with cramp but was determined to get into the top 10. To be honest with you I’m knackered, I’m race fit for my Superstock and R1 schedule but to ride a Superbike is a different challenge. I’m so pleased to be offered this opportunity and hopefully I did the team proud.”

Rob McElena, Team Principal: “What a massive challenge Jon has risen to this weekend. I was forced to put him in a really difficult situation but when it mattered he rose to the occasion. It was a massive ask and he did not put a foot wrong. To ride our bike like that was a testament to his season. We knew his potential and have nurtured that all year but this really proves his talent.”

— Northwest 200 Ducati —

The NW200 Ducati team closed off the 2008 Bennetts British Superbike Championship in style this weekend at Brands Hatch with riders Michael Rutter on the North West 200 F08 Ducati gaining a seventh place and sixth place respectively in the two 30-lap races. His team-mate John Laverty on Buildbase NW200 Ducati secured 13th and fantastic eighth place in the overall Championship and a second and a win in the Daily Star Cup races.

Despite a crash in the opening stages of the F1 style qualifying session, Michael Rutter still managed to qualify in eighth position on the grid and was eager to tackle the small Indy circuit. Riding his 300th Superbike race in the opening race today at Brands the 36-year-old was keen to try and secure two good results to mark this mile-stone in his career.

Gaining a good start in race one he remained in eighth position at the end of the opening lap and with very few passing places on the 1.2-mile track, Rutter was riding a lonely race, with Michael Laverty pulling out in the closing stages he moved through to seventh at the end of the 30-laps.

Rutter struggled on the start of race two and got boxed into the opening corner and fell back to ninth after lap one, pushing hard Rutter soon began making progress through the field and worked his way through the pack. Hunting down Tom Sykes and James Ellison, the West Midlands based rider was hoping to make a pass in the closing stages of the race. Sykes was forced out with a bike problem and despite putting in consistently strong laps towards the end of the race Rutter was unable to get the better of Ellison. Gaining a sixth in the race Michael Rutter also took a strong sixth place in the overall Championship standings for the North West 200 Ducati team.

Commenting Rutter said “It’s definitely been a good end to the season and even though race one was a bit of a lonely race I’m pleased with the second race result. I was riding really hard to try and catch Tom (Sykes) and James (Ellison) but it just wasn’t to be. I’ve had a really enjoyable season with the North West 200 Ducati team and would like to thank everyone that has helped us through the year to help us achieve the results that we have. Special thanks must go to Jason, Rick, Broady, Mick, K-Tech and all the others who have helped me so much over the year, also Alistair and Adele Kennedy for making it all happen. Plus all the others sponsors and rest of the team who have made all this possible throughout the season, thank you.”

John Laverty rode two exceptional races and finished the season with his best overall result of the year with an eighth, he was also on the podium in both of the Daily Star Cup races. Winning the Daily Star Cup Championship comfortably the young Ulsterman finished 17th in the overall series.

He said “I’m really happy to have finished the season on such a high note and with my best result of the year so far. All the Buildbase Ducati team have worked so hard over the year and it was nice to repay them with this result at the end of it all. Brad, One Hole and Dave have all worked all hours to get everything perfect, and thanks must go to them and also Mick, K-tech and most importantly Steve Thompstone from Buildbase for all his support.”

— Hydrex Honda Report —

The sun came down, quite literally, on the 2008 Bennetts British Superbike Championship season with a superb podium placing for James Ellison at a sun-drenched Brands Hatch in Kent today.

Aboard the Hydrex Bike Animal Honda, the 28 year old Cumbrian claimed his fourth podium of the season with a superb battling third place in the opening leg after a race long battle for the lead with 2008 Champion Shane Byrne and Cal Crutchlow. Then in race two, Ellison again battled in the leading bunch throughout the race before having to settle for fifth place at the chequered flag to consolidate seventh place in the championship standings on his return to the series.

For team mate Guy Martin, the meeting heralded a return to the battling form that the 26 year old is capable of with a pair of good races aboard the second of the Shaun Muir Racing Honda Fireblades whereby he followed up a 16th place in the opening thirty lapper with a points scoring 15th in race two to round off an eventful season.

The team’s Metzeler Superstock 1000 representative, Kieran Clarke, was also in the points when he scored a 14th place finish in his race to add to his points tally that saw him ending up 21st in the championship after joining the team mid season.

James Ellison: “Race one was really good and we certainly pushed them all the way so I’m really happy with that and it just shows what this team and bike is capable of doing. It’s been a really good package and they’ve really helped me so I’m pleased to come away with a podium for them. Race two wasn’t so good and I lost my rhythm and got held up a bit behind Tom Sykes but I managed to reel them in towards the end.”

Guy Martin: “In the 1400s they used to catch monkeys using coconuts, but I’m happy with getting a point from the weekend after the problems we’ve had this year. I’d really like to thank Andy Graves, everyone at Red Torpedo, Arai, Dainese and everyone in the team, especially Javier, James, Kate, Warren and Shelby. A special big thanks to Shaun, the backbone of the whole Hydrex Bike Animal camp.”

Kieran Clarke: “I got a really good start and was lying in tenth when it was red flagged on the first lap and then in the re-start I was a little bit too keen and I ended up down in twentieth at the end of the first lap. I picked them off to end up in fourteenth but my lap times were good and showed I would have been running around sixth with my times. I’m pleased with my performance and now we have a lot of work to do over winter and we’ll be back to some success next year. I’d like to thank all the fantastic team for taking me back on board, and a special thanks to Shaun Muir and Steve Roby.”

Shaun Muir (Team Owner): “It’s been a great finish to the year with a podium and the guys have been rewarded by a lot of effort and the first race was great for the team, the sponsors and the spectators. James got stuck behind Tom Sykes in the second race but we’ve no complaints, third and fifth is great to round the year off and I’d like to thank all of my three riders and all the team for all their hard work this year.”

Following on his superb debut season, the final race at Brands Hatch marked the last race for James Ellison as he will now depart the team and move onto pastures new for 2009.

Shaun Muir: “We’d like to thank James for his efforts this year, it’s been a pleasure working with him. He’s brought a great deal of professionalism into the team. We struggled with the new bike set-up and suspension but James buckled down and got on with the job. He’s come from a MotoGP and AMA background and he’s brought that professionalism with him and it’s been a real pleasure. Both myself, the team and sponsors wish him all the best in the future. He will remain a great part of our development and we’ll look forward to battling against him next year!”

James Ellison: “It’s been a fantastic year and it’s been a lot more than I expected from the team, they’ve been like a family and it’s a bit emotional leaving this weekend. They have taken me from the brink of extinction and put me back on the map again and I really wanted to get a couple of wins for them. I’d like to thank Shaun and the whole team for a mega job in looking after me and wish them well in the future.”

— R1 Cup Report —

Jon Kirk