Byrne takes debut Airwaves Ducati win
20 April 2008
He's been the form man of 2008 so far and in the first race at Thruxton today Shane Byrne demonstrated that he is going to be a very hard man to beat on the 1089 Airwaves Ducati.
Byrne was beaten away from pole position by the quick starting HM Plant Honda duo of Cal Crutchlow and Leon Haslam, the two riders looked most likely to compete with the former MotoGP ace.
The other rider looking like a challenger to Byrne and the Honda's is Karl Harris on the Rob Mac Yamaha R1, the combative Sheffield rider got a decent start to lie 5th, but made two superb passes in the early couple of laps to move into third.
His ride came to an end far too quickly though, the blue Yamaha was wide at Church at the end of lap one, and into the tight chicane at the end of the lap the multiple Supersport champion was into the pit and retirement.
“We are not sure yet what has gone wrong,” said team boss Rob McElnea. “It's a bit early to make a full diagnosis, but it looks like the engine may have let go, it's such a shame as Karl has been right on the pace here and looking for a podium.”
Up front Crutchlow was holding a comfortable pace on the Honda with Haslam close behind and Byrne taking stock of the race pace in third.
Right with the top three was the NW200 backed Ducati of Michael Rutter, the veteran BSB rider looking very composed in the leading pack.
Biggest shock was Adam Jenkinson, the youngster riding a Superbike for the first time and also on a 2007 machine was holding on superbly to the quick factory machines up front. These five were pulling away from the chasing pack.
Sadly for Jenkinson, he would join Harris on the retirement list. The SMT Honda rider started to drop away from fourth placed Rutter into the clutches of the next bunch that included James Ellison, Tom Sykes and Simon Andrews. Andrews made a good pass on Jenkinson in the Complex, but as he did so, Jenkinson raised his hand and a tell tale white whisp of smoke heralded his retirement.
Back up to the front four and Byrne had moved into second ahead of Haslam. Then after a few laps in second he started pressuring the leading black machine.
Byrne made his move at the Campbell/Cobb/Segrave complex, forcing the Ducati inside Crutchlow at the left hander on the 13th lap.
The Honda showed a slight edge in straight like speed up the main straight into the chicane, but 'Shakey' was not to be denied and made a huge effort to out-brake the Honda man into the tight end of lap section.
From then on Byrne used the agility of the Ducati to pull out yards on Crutchlow in the twisty areas as Crutchlow tried in vain to pull back the time lost on the straights.
It was not to be though and Byrne took a fantastic first win, proving that his front running pace in testing was no fluke.
“It's been a long time waiting for this,” said Byrne. “We seem to have done so much testing and practice it was nice to get out there and see what everyone has got.
“I was quite happy in the race, just settling in behind Cal, but then I noticed the third placed guy was closing so I had to have a go at getting past. From then on I just controlled it, the bike was perfect.”
Crutchlow was delighted with a second position, not just a good result but also beating Haslam in the process, after a tough 2007 the Coventry lad is looking good for wins in 2008.
“I felt good up front, got a great start and I knew there was someone there behind me after a bit,” said a happy Crutchlow.
“I just didn't have enough to keep him at bay, or then to catch him up again. But we can make some changes and try and get a win nest time.
Rutter was visibly delighted with third on his new Ducati. The team have not had the best start to the season and to be this close to a win is impressive for the Midlander in his can you believe 278th BSB race start.
“Couldn't have dreamt of this really, the team take so much credit here,” said Rutter. “I think there is more to come too.
“About mid-race I was quite happy then started to think that everyone was going to slow down with tyre problems, they didn't and I realised I could go a bit faster. I should have gone earlier really as maybe we could have got a bit closer.
Haslam was a long way behind in fourth. The former Ducati struggling with chatter and front end feel really dropped away after being passed by Rutter. But fourth is not a bad start considering his problems.
The pack behind the front runners was tightly packed but coming out on top was the recovering Leon Camier. The Airwaves Ducati man made a tardy start but showed great form to get back through the pack.
Likewise Tom Sykes for Rizla Suzuki fought through well after a bad fall in practice left his thumb sore. 'Tom Thumb' then had a small problem in the race that dropped him to 12th before an electronics switch allowed him to fight back to sixth.
Other impressive ride came from James Ellison in 7th, the Cumbrian has had a tough start to his BSB return, but raced very well. As did Simon Andrews and Stuart Easton.
Privateers Cup winner was Jonh Leverty on a much more basic Ducati 1089R to team mate Rutter's. Runner up in class was practice pace setter Chris Burns on the MV Agusta.