After dominating practice and setting the fastest ever lap around the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit earlier today, Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne and the Be Wiser Ducati team had to settle for sixth place in Datatag Extreme Qualifying this afternoon meaning a second row start for tomorrow’s opening MCE British Superbike Championship race at Brands Hatch.
The three free practice sessions were held in good conditions and Byrne was in superb form on the factory-backed Be Wiser Ducati Panigale R, topping all three sessions. However, he saved the best until last this morning which saw him post a time of 1m 24.614s to not only lead the rest of the field by over half a second but also set the fastest ever lap witnessed around the 2.43-mile Grand Prix circuit.
It put him in confident mood going into the afternoon’s Datatag Extreme Qualifying session but a torrential downpour beforehand changed the outlook for the 25-rider field. Nevertheless, Shakey, from Sittingbourne, was again on top form initially setting the second fastest lap in Q1 before topping the timesheets in Q2, half a second clear of Josh Brookes.
That just left the final eight-minute Q3 session and with the track drying, the leaderboard was changing all the time. With not much time to get the set-up of the bike right, a time of 1m 36.169s ultimately meant the five-times and defending champion had to settle for sixth place and the second row of the grid.
Team-mate Glenn Irwin was making his return from injury which had seen him miss the last two rounds and although he ended free practice in 19th place, he was only half a second adrift of the top ten. He too made it through from Q1 to Q2 but the Carrickfergus rider didn’t quite have the pace to make it through to Q3 and had to settle for 14th place and the fifth row for tomorrow’s opening 20 lap race.
Shane Byrne: “The bike’s working amazingly well in the dry and everything had gone perfectly up until Q3 when we struggled to find the right setting. I think we went too hard when it was really wet and too soft when it started to dry up but there’s no stress and the second row isn’t a bad place to be. We know what our pace is in the dry so we’ll be hoping for two dry races tomorrow so we can show what we can do.”
Glenn Irwin: “In theory, the wet conditions are less physical but I was struggling on the left handers as I didn’t have the strength in my shoulder to bend my arm as much as I needed. It was difficult to get a good feeling and it was frustrating as I felt strong in other areas of the track. It’s a good enough grid position and we know what we need to do and where we need to improve. I’ll get some more physio and get a good night’s rest and see how we get on. It’s better to be back racing than sat at home for sure!”
Phil Borley, Technical Director: “Qualifying didn’t quite go to plan and with Shane in sparkling form in the dry we were confident of pole position before the rain came. He didn’t quite have the pace in the wet due to the setting of the bike but the second row isn’t the end of the world and we’ll be competitive in the races without doubt. Glenn was hoping for wet conditions but actually found it to be as difficult as it was in the dry. He just missed out on Q3 so it will be a case of ‘suck it and see’ in the races in terms of how his shoulder holds out. Hopefully, he can push on and score some good points.”
1 Josh Brookes (Yamaha) 1m 35.198s
2 Luke Mossey (Kawasaki) 1m 35.856s
3 Dan Linfoot (Honda) 1m 35.865s
4 Peter Hickman (BMW) 1m 35.900s
5 John Hopkins (Ducati) 1m 36.020s
6 Shane Byrne (Be Wiser Ducati) 1m 36.169s
14 Glenn Irwin (Be Wiser Ducati) 1m 38.008s