BSB: Byrne: 'I'd rather have issues in testing than at round one!'

1 of 1

Six-time Bennetts British Superbike Champion Shane Byrne remained pragmatic despite hitting a number of issues with his Be Wiser Ducati at last week’s Monteblanco test.

Testing alongside the JG Speedfit Kawasaki and Honda Racing teams, Byrne was 0.7 seconds off rival Leon Haslam after three weather-interrupted days on track and while he admits he is completely baffled at why his Panigale R is behaving how it is, he says he’d rather run in to problems at a test track in Spain than at Donington Park for round one of the 2018 season.

Byrne was predominantly struggling with getting stopped and turning into corners, and while his corner speed was exemplary as normal, he was also hampered on exit – something that massively confused him given he was running the newer, stiffer swing-arm from Ducati that had improved such areas last year.

What was even more baffling for Byrne was that just days earlier in Cartagena, he’d enjoyed a successful test at a track where he was expecting to struggle.

“Cartagena was a really positive test and it came as a bit of a surprise to be honest,” he told MCN. “It was almost the complete opposite to what we expected. We tested there in 2016 in our first season with the bike and it was a complete disaster.

“This year we went there with a bike that in theory shouldn’t have worked so well on some of the long sweeping turns but I went pretty quick with a used front tyre while not even looking for a lap time. We were all a bit surprised at where it came from as I was literally just out for a few laps to use the rear tyre so we could get a good feeling for the new compound front from Pirelli in the next run.”

Despite having just two days on track compared to some teams’ five, Byrne’s lap time of 1’32.7 left him second on the combined times at the end of the test behind Tyco BMW’s Christian Iddon. 

“Then we came to Monteblanco which is a new track for us. Honda, who have tested here for the last few years, gave us a reference time of 1’36.9 and on the final day I did a 1’37.0 and I didn’t do that because I was super happy with the bike or things were working well, it kind of came out of frustration as it seems at the moment, in both Cartagena and Monteblanco, my bike is exactly the same as last year but it’s working in completely the opposite way to what it should. 

“I seem to be losing time in braking, especially to Glenn who has gone really well here. My corner speeds and exit speeds are perhaps a tiny bit faster than him, but could still be improved. I know I’m riding the bike well but I don’t feel that happy. When this bike works it feels like you are going slow because it works so well, but the lap time I did today felt like I was dragging it by the scruff of the neck.”

Despite the problems, Byrne remains positive. The PBM team have three more days on track at Guadix before heading to Donington Park for the official test next Tuesday.

“OK, maybe the other guys have gone a tiny bit quicker than me here but I don’t give a shit how fast I go around Monteblanco. We don’t race here. What I do give a shit about is how fast I go around Donington Park.

“Me struggling a bit more here than I did in Cartagena will make Giovanni think, it will make Chris my data guy think – it will make the whole team think because in some ways the problem I’m having is completely opposite to what we expected. 

“We weren’t that far away, so the lap time can come but I want it to be coming a hell of a lot easier and to do that we need to figure out why things aren’t working as they should at the moment. For me, to feel so confused as to why the bike is working the way it is but to be so close almost makes me smile. That’s perfect, if I can be that close feeling this crap then we’ll be in a good position when the feeling comes back.” 

Oli Rushby

By Oli Rushby

Former sports reporter covering British Superbikes, World Superbikes and road racing