Author: Oli Rushby Pics: Impact Images Posted: 11 Apr 2016
Most British Superbike racers would be thrilled to achieve two second places and walk away championship leader after their first races on a bike that’s not just completely new to them, but has barely been on the podium in its five year BSB history.
Not Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne, though. The four-time champion was unable to hide his disappointment not to be on the top step as he made his debut with Ducati's Panigale R.
“I’m not happy because I haven’t won,” said Byrne after narrowly missing out on victory to JG Speedfit Kawasaki’s Peter Hickman in the second race. “I wanted to finish this weekend with at least one win and maybe that was an unrealistic target but we nearly did it twice.
“I rode as hard as I could, I couldn’t have gone much faster and we’ve got to learn to walk before we can run. You have to consider where we are in the grand scheme of things, we came here with a completely new bike, there’s a completely new set-up on my side of the garage and we got two second places and walk away with the championship lead. If anyone else did that it’d be amazing but because it’s me it’s just, ‘not bad’!”
Even for the most successful British Superbike rider in history, moving to Ducati was a bold move and many expected a steady start for Byrne. His rivals eyed it as a potential opportunity to take a crucial early season advantage as the Be Wiser Ducati squad got their head around their new machine.
However, with the blue-eyed champ on the pace from round one it’s not looking like that will be possible and Byrne reckons they’ve barely scratched the surface.
“There’s definitely improvement to come, not just from the chassis or the package but from me too. Every time I ride the bike I fall in love a little bit more. Whenever any team takes on a new bike it takes a while to get used to it as you saw with Tyco and the BMW and Milwaukee Yamaha last year. You don’t just buy these things, tweak a few bits and be in a position to win races!
“The bike has a great chassis it’s just the way the bike makes its power at the moment doesn’t lend itself that well to using the entire chassis. The front is mega, the side grip is really good but the translation between me trying to get up off the side of the tyre and driving the thing out of the corner cleanly without too much pumping or movement from the rear is awkward at the moment. It’s hard to ride but at the same time it’s really good fun and pleasurable to ride. The easier it becomes and the smoother I become the more tyre we’ll have left and that’ll hopefully put us in an even better position.
“We could cheat and knock a load of people out of a couple of gears but I want to be able to ride a motorbike not a computer game. We’re trying to be patient but we’ve just taken the championship lead in the first round so we’re not exactly suffering but there’s so much more to come from the bike.”