Shane Byrne scored a record sixth British superbike championship title at Brands Hatch today, as mechanical failure saw rival Leon Haslam crash out at high speed in the weekend’s championship deciding final race.
Haslam arrived at the Kent circuit with a 32 point advantage over Josh Brookes, with Byrne a further point back, but the championship was kept alive as Leon battled bike set-up issues to come home fourth in Saturday’s race, while Byrne stamped his authority with a dominant win.
Byrne fired his Ducati to another dominant win on Sunday’s opening race as Leon struggled to 10th, setting up a grandstand finish for the day’s finale – with Haslam taking a two point advantage over Byrne, with Brookes needing to win the race and have misfortune for his rivals in order to take his second title.
From the lights, Christian Iddon set the pace on his BMW but, behind him, Leon and his Kawasaki rediscovered their mojo and headed Byrne’s booming Ducati in their winner takes all battle. The dream would be over after less than six laps though, as Haslam’s front brakes failed as he sped into the fast Hawthorns corner. Leon jumped clear of his bike before it barrelled into the safety barriers and was lucky to escape with ‘only’ a suspected broken ankle, wrist and thumb. Brookes would go on to win the race, moving him to second in the final standings, with Byrne avoided risks to come home seventh and win back-to-back titles for the first time in his career.
“I’ve never defended a title before and it meant the world to me,” an emotional Byrne said after the race. “We’ve had such a bad run over the last few weekends that I came into this round with a completely different approach. I figured that all I needed to do was enjoy myself and we managed to do that. I wasn’t expecting to win and I feel really sorry for Leon as it was probably meant to be his year.
“He must have made a really good start because he was one place in front of me. I was cool with that. I was happy to sit behind him for most of the race and make my attack at the end but I’m sorry that he crashed and we had to take it that way. A million emotions went through my head when he crashed in front of me and in the end I was just riding around in seventh and that was good enough to be champion. I’ve defended the title. That was one of the biggest things on my bucket list and now I’ve done it.”
Understandably distraught, Haslam added: “I’m absolutely gutted. It’s been one of those weekends. I gave everything I had but I had no front brake and had to jump off the bike. Fair play to Shane, he pushed me all the way but we’ll be back next year and out to make amends.”
Other champions crowned at Brands Hatch were Keith Farmer, winner of the supersport title, and Danny Buchan, who won the Superstock 1000 series.