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Brands Hatch: Byrne ends season in style

12 October 2008

Shane Byrne ended his championship winning season in style by completing a superb double victory with a pass on Leon Haslam just two corners from home at Brands Hatch.

Byrne looked like he would pay the price for a tardy first few corners when he completed the opening lap in fifth place, but a charge up the order saw him catch long-time leader Leon Haslam in the latter stages before pulling off the pass on the very final lap.

A marvellous end to a superb season, the race also marks the final showing for World Championship bound Byrne, Haslam, Cal Crutchlow and Tom Sykes.

With the low late afternoon sun basking the Kent circuit in a warm glow, the riders set off on the first lap with Sykes getting the best start to have his nose ahead into Paddock Hill Bend, although Haslam's 'wall of death' antics on the outside would secure him the lead through Druids.

He was followed by HM Plant Honda team-mate Crutchlow, Sykes, James Ellison, Byrne and Leon Camier.

Although Byrne kept a low profile over the first few laps, he moved ahead of Ellison to fourth on the fifth lap, before quickly rising to third with a move on Sykes at Paddock Hill Bend.

Byrne had still left himself a task though, with Haslam and Crutchlow setting a good early pace to establish a comfortable lead over their rivals. Haslam was going especially well and saw his lead eke out further when Byrne became bottled up behind Crutchlow.

Even so, the two-time winner couldn't resist him for too long, Byrne producing an impressive dive down the inside at Druids to catch Crutchlow unawares.

With 15 short laps and a second and a half to make up on Haslam, Byrne had his work cut out to catch his long-time rival. However, with Haslam beginning to ail from the shoulder injury picked up in qualifying yesterday, Byrne steadily began reeling him in.

Eventually catching him with five laps remaining, Byrne tailed Haslam before making a concerted pass for the lead at Paddock Hill Bend with three laps remaining. However, despite Byrne's more favourable line, Haslam refused to concede, duly holding his nerve – and the lead.

With Byrne rebuffed, he instead saved himself a last lap assault and while it may have taken a couple of lapped riders to distract Haslam on the run up to Surtees, it was all Byrne needed to complete his move.

Crossing the line to rapturous applause, the win sees Byrne complete the season exactly how he started it, while it marks a fitting reward to the his championship winning team GSE Racing before he heads to Sterilgarda Ducati in 2009.

Haslam, who would finish almost two seconds behind when he ran wide trying to defend the inevitable, was a disappointed second, even if it didn't stop him from joining several other riders in lobbing several of their items into the crowd in true end of season celebration.

Behind the main attraction, third place fell to Camier, who followed Byrne in working his way up the order. The youngster completes his fine debut season at Airwaves Ducati with an eighth podium.

Crutchlow faded into an eventual fourth place, just ahead of Ellison, who spent much of the race attempting to find his way past Sykes. Sykes' season would come to a disappointing end though when he retired four laps from home with a mechanical problem. It means he has dropped to fourth behind Crutchlow in the overall standings.

Michael Rutter enjoyed a better race in sixth, ahead of Simon Andrews, while John Laverty joined fellow title winner Byrne in claiming the spoils in the Cup category with a fine eighth place overall. Fellow Cup competitor Gary Mason was ninth, while Jon Kirkham completed his busy day with a run to tenth.

Elsewhere, Chris Burns was on fine form to finish in 11th, ahead of more fancied competitors Jason O'Halloran, Tristan Palmer, Atsushi Watanabe and Guy Martin.


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