It was the moment of truth, one that would either make history or be a source of complete disappointment. The pressure was on, intense, all-encompassing. But Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne was more than up to the task. He didn’t succumb. He didn’t waver. Instead, at Brands Hatch, the arena where BSB’s final round was played out, he rose to the moment and walked away with the crown – plain and simple.
It was also the moment when his bike, the ZX10R, a medley of red and white, shone through, as Kawasaki won its first title at BSB in 20 years. Team owner Paul Bird of Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki was calm and composed though, as the camera focused on him during the final race. He later told Britishsuperbike.com, “This is our best championship win to date and to win both the British Superbike Championship and the Superstock 1000 Championship, we have also won most races, which is testament to the team who have done a brilliant job…Considering the pressure Shakey was under, he rode exceptionally well and to out and win the final race when he didn’t need to was simply amazing.”
The race itself was intense – not for the racing itself, which had several breath-stopping moments, but for the sheer number game that played out that Sunday. The weekend kicked off with a Byrne win – but it all boiled down to the final two races. There was work to be done – Alex Lowes was the new challenger, seeking to set the youngest-ever-champion record. And so the race began with 33 riders on the starting grid. As the stream of bikes thundered through the circuit – an utterly physical one at that – there was a crash that took out a series of riders. It was the 3rd lap when Tristan Palmer crashed heavily and the safety car came out. As the safety car entered the pits, Byrne took off, his Ninja screaming across the line, building up a substantial gap between Lowes and him.
Behind him, a new name rose through the ranks. Barry Burrell challenged Josh Brookes and Michael Laverty before setting sights on Lowes. The BMW edged closer and closer, and Burrell made his move on the 9th lap, to take the 2nd spot. The safety car came out a second time after James Westmoreland’s crash. This time though, Shakey found it a little difficult to get away from the pack – but get away he did. Brookes finally made it past Burrell, as did Laverty to take the 2nd and 3rd spot. Byrne was still in the lead.
Tension, anticipation and tightly crossed fingers preceded the start of the final race. Byrne still wasn’t in the clear, leading by 23 points and this race was to be the decider. But there’s no denying it. Byrne ran the perfect race – no errors, confident, smooth and definitely in control. Shakey didn’t need a win. All he had to do was finish at the 13th spot. The race started with Brookes leading the band of riders, but Shakey jettisoned to the second spot at the beginning leading Laverty and Lowes.
Byrne did take a peek occasionally, but didn’t upset the balance, shadowing Brookes till the second last lap. Just when we thought Brookes would take the win, Byrne made his move. First a quick glance for an opening and then finally a move that took him past Brookes at Pilgrims Drop and straight on to the podium for a win. It was a phenomenal, well-calculated move. But behind, at the 3rd spot, things were taking a gigantic wobble towards the gravel trap. Laverty and Lowes battled for the final spot on the podium. Lowes began to push towards the final lap, trying to move past Laverty. But as he took the turn, Lowes touched the kerb taking his bike – and Laverty’s – straight into the kitty litter. The Hondas bounced across the gravel in synchrony. Lowes got up and ran towards Laverty – apologizing, we presume – and put his arm around the Irishman. But the damage had been done. The last race of the season came to an end as they trudged back to the pits.
But the focus was Shakey. The triple win at Brands Hatch took him to his third Championship title. This was his first win on the Kawasaki; his previous two championships were on the Ducati. “That was amazing and I am ecstatic. It would be cruel not to have tried for the win, and it has been such an incredible season,” Byrne later said. “I’m really emotional right now.”
He added, “What it now means is I have to think about coming back here next year to defend the title, as I’d like to beat the record of three championship victories achieved by Niall Mackenzie and Ryuichi Kiyonari!”
Paul Bird Motorsports, inspired by Byrne’s fabulous win and the Superstock 1000 Championship win, are now planning to stay on at BSB, even as they expand their MotoGP team. Even as the competition mounts, it’s fair to say, the 2013 run promises to be fabulous.
Meanwhile, almost unnoticed by the TV cameras, another racer lived her dream. But, the crowds noticed as Jenny Tinmouth crossed the finish line at the 23rd position – 4 seconds behind the lead racer, and completed her first ever season in BSB. She finished at the 21st position in the 2nd race. She later said on her website, “We have had a great last round at Brands hatch, all three races went well, and we had three strong finished with the last race being our best and most consistent. We have had a fantastic and thoroughly enjoyable debut season in British Superbikes and I cannot thank Hardinge Machine Tools, Sorrymate.com, and all our other sponsors enough for all their help and support, through this first season. We are so proud of our achievements and extremely excited about next year’s prospects as we enter in to our winter testing programme to build on what we have learnt this year and to come back even stronger in 2013.
It hasn’t been easy, but Tinmouth knows how to hang in there, to fight hard and live her dream. To know more about her story, in her own words, check in next week for an exclusive interview with Jenny Tinmouth.
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Coming Soon: An Exclusive Interview with Jenny Tinmouth. Watch this space.