It was a day of mixed fortunes for the Be Wiser Ducati Team at the opening round of the 2017 MCE British Superbike Championship at Donington Park today which saw Shane Byrne’s title defence get off to the worst possible start when he was declared unfit to ride following a crash during the morning warm up.
That meant it was left to team-mate Glenn Irwin to give Paul Bird’s Penrith-based team something to cheer about, when having taken a strong sixth in the first race, he rode superbly in the second race to claim third place and with it a brilliant podium position.
After qualifying was cancelled due to track contamination yesterday, five times champion Byrne was set to start on row two of the grid and had just set the second fastest time on the factory-backed Be Wiser Ducati Panigale R during the 20-minute warm up session when he crashed heavily at Craner Curves. Following medical treatment, it was determined the Londoner had suffered concussion in the high-speed spill, which resulted in the BSB medical team advising him to take no further part in the day’s proceedings.
That left team-mate Irwin to fly the flag for Paul Bird’s team as he started the first 20-lap race from ninth on the grid. In the early part of the race he moved up the order as he diced with former World Superbike Champion Sylvain Guintoli, but in the latter stages he closed rapidly on the riders ahead of him and took seventh place on the penultimate lap. He wasn’t finished, however, and overtook former BSB Champion Josh Brookes on the final lap to claim a fine sixth place.
Having set the eighth fastest lap of the race, Glenn started the second 20-lap race from the third row once more and the race followed a similar pattern to the first. Eighth at the end of the first lap, it was again in the second half of the race when Glenn was at his strongest and having moved up to sixth at half race distance, he soon closed in on the riders battling for third.
On the penultimate lap, he moved up to fourth with a good pass on Luke Mossey at Redgate Corner and he then took third place on the final lap, holding on for his third career BSB podium. The results have placed him fifth in the early season table.
Glenn Irwin: “After Shakey crashed someone said to me that the pressure was really on as I was carrying the hopes of the team but whilst it’s not the ideal way to get an opportunity, I saw it as exactly that and took it with both hands. I was able to manage the tyres really well in both races but in the first race I was a little bit cautious in making my move so I made sure in the second I went for it. I was able to make passes from a long way back but in a controlled way and the front tyre was so good it allowed me to do pretty much what I wanted. I respect everyone in the field but with a year in BSB now under my belt, I know I can run with the front runners.”
Shane Byrne: “It was disappointing to sit out the races today but I’ve been around racing long enough to know things like this happen. The good news is that nothing is broken and after a couple of day’s rest, I’ll be absolutely fine. The championship hasn’t been won today and there’s an awful lot more races that are there for us to win. I’m going off to Spain to relax and have a few days in the sun to recover and I intend to bounce back at Brands Hatch in a couple of weeks’ time.”
Paul Bird, Team Owner: “Losing Shakey was obviously a huge blow and whilst the podium finish for Glenn doesn’t quite make up for things, it’s certainly a big boost to the team. I thought it would be a big ask for Glenn to finish on the podium given the bike isn’t much different to last year. He’s shown today though how much he’s improved as a rider and he’s beaten some quality riders in both races which bodes well for the rest of the year as he’s only going to get stronger. As for Shakey, it’s a massive disappointment as Donington is one of his strongest circuits. He got caught out but it’s happened to the best riders in the world at some stage so we’ll just have to take it on the chin.”
MCE British Superbike Championship race one (20 laps)
1 Leon Haslam (Kawasaki)
2 Luke Mossey (Kawasaki)
3 Christian Iddon (BMW)
4 Peter Hickman (BMW)
5 James Ellison (Yamaha)
6 Glenn Irwin (Be Wiser Ducati) DNS Shane Byrne (Be Wiser Ducati)
MCE British Superbike Championship race two (20 laps)
1 Leon Haslam (Kawasaki)
2 Josh Brookes (Yamaha)
3 Glenn Irwin (Be Wiser Ducati)
4 Christian Iddon (BMW)
5 Luke Mossey (Kawasaki)
6 James Ellison (Yamaha)
DNS Shane Byrne (Be Wiser Ducati)
Championship Points (after one round)
1 Haslam 50pts
2 Mossey 31
3 Brookes 29
= Iddon 29
5 Irwin 26
6 Hickman 21