Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne clinched an unprecedented sixth BSB championship title in dramatic style at Brands Hatch, as the title fight went down to the wire in the final race of the season.
The last race of the season started with Leon Haslam and defending champion Byrne separated by just two points after Byrne won race two and Haslam finished tenth, ahead of the crucial decider at the Kent circuit.
On the opening lap James Ellison had taken the advantage from Christian Iddon and Michael Laverty. The title contenders were in formation, with Josh Brookes in fourth ahead of Haslam and Byrne, but the Australian knew he was still in contention and he was pushing to move through the field.
At the front Iddon took the lead, but on lap six Haslam’s title hopes ended in heartbreak as the JG Speedfit Kawasaki rider suffered brake failure on Lap Six.
The ‘Pocket Rocket’ had to jump off the bike at 172mph at Hawthorns and subsequently sustained a broken right wrist, right thumb and left ankle. He heroically returned to the grid for the championship celebrations at the end of the race to congratulate Byrne on his title victory before heading to the medical centre.
The crash brought out the BMW Safety Car and when the race resumed Brookes was instantly on the attack and took the lead into Paddock Hill Bend which he held to the finish, but in the closing stages Jason O’Halloran charged through into second to push Ellison back to third.
Byrne ended the race in eighth place but it was enough to seal his sixth title as he defended his title for the first time in his career, finishing behind Laverty, Iddon, Peter Hickman and Dan Linfoot.
Speaking after the race, Byrne said: “I really don’t know how I feel to be honest because I came here thinking I’m 33 points behind Leon and he’s such a tough competitor that I never envisaged being able to pull back 33 points, but what I did envisage was coming here to do the best job I possibly could this weekend and try and win three races.
“That’s never a given in BSB because it’s really, really difficult to win, but after we won the first race and pulled back some points and then there was only two points between us and I had a bit of a game plan for the final race of the day and that was to keep an eye on my pit board to see where Leon was and basically remain a place or two in front of him.
“That may sound a little bit arrogant or aloof but it was basically my way of making sure we came away from this weekend as champions.
“I knew he was starting on the fourth row and when he came past me on the start I thought “seriously, what sort of a start did you get?” but it was perfect because I was sat in fourth or fifth with Leon right in front of me and I felt absolutely cool with that because I knew towards the end of the race I’d be really strong,
“I sat there quite content, trying not to use to much tyre and following him around making sure nobody was going past me, and then as we went down into Hawthorns Leon didn’t get on the brakes or whatever happened and jumped off his bike and it really threw me, I’m not going to lie. I spent a couple of laps afterwards thinking “hold on a minute, we are supposed to be fighting for a championship, we can’t fight for a championship if you’re in there”.
“I’m gutted for him, I genuinely mean that because he’s been a really tough competitor last year and this year, and for him to come here with 33 points lead and leading the championship seems a bitter pill to swallow.
“I hadn’t actually won a race since we were here in July and that never happens. BSB is so tough right now that it’s really, really difficult to win. We’ve ended up champions so I’m super, super happy to have defended the title. That’s the one thing I wanted to do and we’ve got that done now so it’s going to be a nice winter.”
MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship, Brands Hatch, Race Two result:
Shane Byrne (Be Wiser Ducati)
Christian Iddon (Tyco BMW) +0.524s
James Ellison (McAMS Yamaha) +1.406s
Josh Brookes (Anvil Hire TAG Yamaha) +6.073s
Jason O’Halloran (Honda Racing) +8.147s
Peter Hickman (Smiths Racing BMW) +10.424s
Glenn Irwin (Be Wiser Ducati) +11.216s
Michael Laverty (McAMS Yamaha) +11.547s
Dan Linfoot (Honda Racing) +15.053s
Leon Haslam (JG Speedfit Kawasaki) +18.531s
MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship, Brands Hatch, Race Three result:
Josh Brookes (Anvil Hire TAG Yamaha)
Jason O’Halloran (Honda Racing) +0.687s
James Ellison (McAMS Yamaha) +0.857s
Michael Laverty (McAMS Yamaha) +1.929s
Christian Iddon (Tyco BMW) +2.144s
Peter Hickman (Smiths Racing BMW) +5.254s
Dan Linfoot (Honda Racing) +5.281s
Shane Byrne (Be Wiser Ducati) +6.512s
Bradley Ray (Buildbase Suzuki) +6.923s
Richard Cooper (Bennetts Suzuki) +7.628s
2017 MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship standings:
Shane Byrne (Be Wiser Ducati) 637
Josh Brookes (Anvil Hire TAG Yamaha) 634
Leon Haslam (JG Speedfit Kawasaki) 631
Peter Hickman (Smiths Racing BMW) 578
Jason O’Halloran (Honda Racing) 567
Jake Dixon (RAF Regular & Reserves Kawasaki) 562