Brands Hatch: Byrne returns to victory circle
12 October 2008
Shane Byrne made his return to the top step of the podium in the first Bennetts British Superbike race of the day at Brands Hatch after a controlled performance.
In a race largely devoid of drama, Byrne, relieved of the pressure from his title challenge, snatched the lead from the fast starting Cal Crutchlow on the second lap and wouldn't be tackled for the remainder of the 28 laps.
An important win for the Airwaves Ducati rider, who hadn't won a race since Mallory Park, it occurs around his home circuit and on his final outing for the team before he embarks on his switch to the World Superbike Championship next season.
From the off, it was Crutchlow who managed the best getaway, the Honda rider defying his third place on the grid, a slot that is traditionally considered difficult to get away from on this circuit, to dive into Paddock Hill Bend in the lead.
Despite the frantic pile into the notorious corner, there were no scuffles, although the order was defined by those who managed a better start from their grid positions. James Ellison was a big winner, jumping up from fifth to third, ahead of Leon Haslam, who dropped two positions the other way from second to fourth. Leon Camier and Tom Sykes followed in fifth and sixth.
Having dominated qualifying, Byrne loomed large behind Crutchlow throughout the opening lap, so it was no surprise to see him ease around the outside of the Honda rider up Hailwood Hill before cutting him off at Druids.
Taking a lead he wouldn't lose all the way to the chequered flag, although Byrne was never considerably faster than the chasing pack, they were never close enough to mount a sustained challenge either.
Crutchlow's hopes of pressuring Byrne were scuppered by Ellison's mid-race attempts to keep his Honda counterpart honest, although the Hydrex Bike Animal rider was himself having to contend with attention from Haslam.
Indeed, the Ellison-Haslam battle served the only real entertainment amongst the leading riders, although the likelihood of them changing position was restricted to the occasional feigned move at Paddock Hill Bend.
As such, they remained 'as you were' all the way to the chequered flag, Byrne winning by almost two seconds from Crutchlow, while Ellison resisted Haslam's last lap charge to edge him by a mere 0.046secs.
Camier and Sykes kept a watching brief but had to settle for fifth and sixth, while Michael Rutter had to use all of his 300 race experience to hold off Simon Andrews for seventh place, despite the fact he finished almost 20 seconds adrift of the leaders.
Seventh place had belonged to Michael Laverty, who was on the cusp of Camier and Sykes before he was forced to retire with two laps remaining. He was joined on the sidelines by Stuart Easton, who was up to tenth place when he crashed on the same lap.
As such, Jon Kirkham produced a fine performance to claim ninth on the Rob Mac Yamaha. Although a poor start dropped him down the order at the start, Kirkham showed impressive resolve to battle his way back into top ten contention. He has no chance to rest though as he is out straight away for the Henderson R1 Cup…
Tristan Palmer completed the top ten on the Tena for Men Honda, while Gary Mason, Billy McConnell, John Laverty, Atsushi Watanabe and Jason O'Halloran made up the points positions.