The undisputed dominant force in the MCE British Superbike championship turned 40 last December and is arriving at a crossroads in his career. While still regularly winning BSB races, and leading the 2017 championship, Byrne continues to be one of the fastest riders on the grid even with a busier life both on and off track with more Eurosport TV work and as a father of two. Crash.net catches up with how Byrne manages it all plus what lies ahead in his career.

 

Crash.net:

Related Articles

2017 has certainly been an up and down year in BSB, as it has been for most riders, how much has the bike developed this year compared to 2016?

Shane Byrne:

Last year the bike was difficult for two reasons: we never had a base setting for it and secondly it is a very torquey, stiff, powerful motorbike. Those things go against each other. So a lot of work we did was to make the power delivery smoother, make the bike easier to ride, which in turn gave the stiff chassis an easier time. When we got on top of the chassis, and Ducati won’t mind me saying, the bike is a race bike that they put on the road for people. That means when it is in its window it is absolutely phenomenal but you don’t just rock up to a circuit and it is immediately in that window you have to work to find it. When it’s in it you’re really happy but if it is outside that window, it isn’t just outside it is in a different postcode! That has been part of the fun and part of the challenge to tame the beast at every round.

Others may think if they were on it they’d be winning and that happens in years gone by. When the Honda wins everybody buys a Honda, when the Kawasaki wins the whole paddock buys a Kawasaki. But you’ve still got to ride the thing. I still have to work so hard at it. Look at John Hopkins as an example he is a rider who was the most desirable rider in the MotoGP paddock at one point in his career and he rides for a team with three or four years of experience with the Panigale but we haven’t seen him where he should be because it is not an easy job to do. If it was easy everyone would be racing Ducatis.

Crash.net:

Ducati are in an interesting position now the V4 is set to be introduced and homologated for racing in 2019. Correct me if I’m wrong but having signed a two-year deal with Paul Bird Motorsport, is it safe to assume you’ll continue beyond that to race the new Ducati Superbike?

Shane Byrne:

I don’t know where things are at the moment, I feel I’m in a really difficult part of my career, last December in turned 40 and everyone thinks you are getting on a bit now. I started doing a lot more work with Eurosport and the likes of James Whitham, James Haydon or Neil Hodgson those guys are making a living out of TV work after racing.

The great thing for me at the moment is I can do World Superbike commentary in Imola or Laguna Seca and I went there after partying it in BSB. It’s hard being here in BSB as I only dreamt of being a world champion and I still dream of being a world champion but the reality of me getting a factory Ducati to race in World Superbikes next year probably isn’t there.

I was very hopeful the V4 would be a year earlier. I know what is left to come for the Panigale as it stands at the moment and none of the teams in BSB are going to stand still over the winter. There is a lot of talk of manufacturers bringing out new models but the beauty, in some ways, of BSB is that it doesn’t matter what a manufacturer brings out you have still got to make it a BSB bike. You’ve still got to take off all of the stuff that makes them great road bikes to ride and the most technically advanced bikes you can ride to turn them into BSB bikes. That sounds backwards, I know, and that is my only thing with a Superbike in BSB because your Superbike is really just a bike. If you go ride up on an 1199 R that may be technically more advanced than what I race on. I don’t see how fans can aspire to have a BSB bike as what they ride is technically more advanced. But at the same time nobody can argue that our technical regulations are wrong because on any given day there could be five or ten race winners on many different manufacturers. Stuart Higgs and Jonathan Palmer have done a great job at getting the series competitive but have they done a great job at making a Superbike super? I don’t know.

If you turned up in the 1990s or early 2000s when Fogarty and company where on factory Ducati or factory Hondas, every road bike rider was there because they wanted to see what they could buy in a showroom turned into the best thing it could be made into and raced by their heroes. Now they come here and watch us race and think if he had the traction control like I do on my bike, but we haven’t got it. It is a difficult one but you can’t argue that the racing isn’t close and they definitely do a good job putting on a good show.

Crash.net:

That leads us on to the talk which is dominating the headlines, which is what will happen to the World Superbike rules. What do you think should happen?

Shane Byrne:

I think the fundamental problem with production racing at the moment is a Superbike in BSB is different to a Superbike in WorldSBK, which is different to a Superbike in the IDM German championship which is different to a Superbike in the Japanese championship which is different to a Superbike in MotoAmerica and so on.

How can anyone say we all race Superbikes when there are no clearly defined Superbike technical regulations. You could argue the World Superbike regulations should be top and everyone should follow, but you could look at the results in World Superbike championship and ask what is the point following that as it would only have two Ducatis and two Kawasakis winning.

For me, all of the bosses of all of the championships need to sit down together. There is a lot of chest bumping and cock waving that goes on but who can argue that BSB racing isn’t close? Nobody. Is Superbike racing as close anywhere else in the world? I don’t think so. I’m not saying the FIM or Dorna should adopt the MoTeC ECU and that should be a Superbike but what I am saying is they need to all sit down together and figure it out.

The biggest problem is MotoGP went four-stroke in 2002 which then in some ways got them in line with the Superbike rules, with the four-stroke motorcycles, maybe MotoGP should go back to two-strokes and they’d be like the Formula 1 cars! Maybe the issue is MotoGP needs to be more prototype. Nobody can buy a MotoGP bike from the shop so let’s make Superbikes super again by keeping them all at a level where everyone can be competitive. What would be ideal is getting them all to a level where if I wanted to race a MotoAmerica round I could as our bikes would be the same and if Josh Hayes wants to come over here or they can. It would make things easier by riding the same things. Match races could come back and wildcards easier.

When I was out in MotoAmerica, which has adopted World Superbike rules but uses Dunlop tyres [rather than Pirelli], I asked Wayne Rainy what if World Superbike changed its rules. He said they’ve got to stay with their current rules for now because you can’t tell the manufacturers in your championship that you need to run one set of rules and then change it a year later because somebody else changed their minds. That is why I think everyone needs to sit down together and define what they think is a good set of Superbike rules so it can be the same around the world.

Then the fundamental issue is if everyone turned up to Superbike races and didn’t turn up to MotoGP which costs ten times more to run than to run a Superbike why would the manufacturers bother to race in MotoGP.

Crash.net:

You raise some very interesting points! Moving away from racing and to your life outside of the track, it seems you are busier than ever with the Eurosport work kicking off.

Shane Byrne:

I really enjoy it because, without blowing my own trumpet, I feel it is something I have a valid opinion on. Anyone could come on and say the same stuff I would but people would ask what does he or she know. But because of the experience I have with the years I’ve been racing and the industry I’m in I feel I have a valid opinion.

I’m always striving to make myself better at a race track with thoughts towards race day on Sunday, I sometimes find myself talking in the bit I’m in but wishing I could share so much more. There is only so long you can take to answer one thing so I am always pushing to be better by cramming as much information into my answers as I can. It is like any other challenge to me and you only get as much out as you put in. The Eurosport TV work is really fun but at the same time I went for Snetterton with the double victory to commentating in Laguna Seca which was like me saying my racing career isn’t over yet. I’m not looking to find my way out next year but I see it as mini job interviews. While I’m still racing all the time I can still dip my toe in TV stuff it might be that I get better at it and enjoy it more or it might be I don’t enjoy it as much and I’ll know that isn’t what I want to do once I stop racing. The more chances I get the better it is so when I do hang up my leathers in racing having achieved what I wanted to I’ll either be better at it or know I want to do something different. When the time does come and say I do the TV work as a job I want to be the best at it. So doing it now it won’t be starting fresh and it will come more natural. Then hopefully I’ll be good at it if I choose to do it.

Crash.net:

As we’ve touched on you’ve got a hectic life with racing, TV work and all the rest, while through social media it looks like you’ve got that perfect balance with a happy family life. Does it feel that way?

Shane Byrne:

My family means the world to me as corny as it sounds. I go racing now to see their faces when I’m top of the podium. It is hard at times like when they are out in Spain staying there for the summer holidays, so I’ll be flying backwards and forwards to spend as much time with them.

When I was younger I may have not appreciated it at the time but my dad used to come racing with me once he retired and we got to spend two or three seasons racing together but growing up as a kid we lived in a little council estate he spent every weekend working 12 hour days so I never really got to see much of him.

It was only after he started coming racing and then we lost him we knew we lost that poor guy who worked all of his life as hard as he could in all the hours God would send just to give us the life that we had growing up. It was far from privileged but it was the best he could do and because of that my family and spending time with my kids means the world to me. It might be that one day when I am gone Zack and Lilly will have kids of their own and their lives might be different and they might think that dad put himself out so that all he could do was be with us.

As a racer you have to be selfish but I’ll make the most ridiculous of compromises so I can spend time with Petra and the kids. Instead of a day cycling 150 miles I’ll do a 70-mile ride much faster to somewhere where they are going to be because it’ll be that much harder than cruising for 150 miles due to the physical intensity but then I’ll get to spend five or six hours with the kids. There are always compromises but when you get sent pictures, like today before I arrived, I got some pictures of the kids and I couldn’t stop smiling – it makes me so happy.

When I was a younger rider without kids or commitments I thought how can some of my rivals be as committed as I was when all I had to do was train and go racing but they had to worry about nappy changing and not sleeping! I was completely the opposite to what I am now.

There are those bullshit comments that having kids slows you down by half a second. What a load of shit! I think it actually makes me faster! I’m not racing solely for myself anymore, I am racing for my family. My family mean more to me than any race bike, any race team or any victory. Your family is what continues in your name and any achievement I’ve got means nothing to me unless they are happy and get to enjoy the moment with me. That makes me far happier. It sounds like racing comes second but that is only true once I take my crash helmet off. Once the helmet is on I have a job to do and I’ll do that job to the best of my ability but the second I am off the bike I want to see Zack, Lilly and Petra. Then we all celebrate with the team as one big group so family for me is cool and definitely doesn’t make you slower.

Crash.net:

So that family mentality extends to the Paul Bird Motorsport team as well?

Shane Byrne:

Paul doesn’t suffer fools gladly and we both share a common bond that we both want to do this. He doesn’t need to do this and I don’t need to race in BSB, I could stop now as five-time BSB champion who has won the most races, won a couple of World Superbike races in my time – it wouldn’t be a bad career. Nobody has a gun to Paul’s head saying you have to spend one million quid of your own money a year to go motorbike racing. He wants to do it and so do I, that is why we work so well together. The day I think I don’t want to do BSB anymore he’ll be the first person I tell, probably even before I tell my own family because that man has been with me for six or seven seasons altogether and 90% of my success has been shared with him and because of that I have so much time and respect for the guy.

I explained to him at the start of the year I am here because I want to be and I want to win so we’ve had those conversations that have to happen. The team I’ve got around me are a great bunch of guys and I believe in them 100% and they believe in me 100%. That is why it works so efficiently. It is a nice place to be. I always get asked about racing outside of PBM but I don’t think I need to prove anything outside of the team I’m in because I’ve won for Honda, Suzuki, Kawasaki with this team and Ducati with this team and Ducati with other teams. I feel I’m in a fortunate position so why change that.

Crash.net:

It has been a pleasure and enlightening, thanks for your time.

Shane Byrne:

No problem, thanks.