Tuesday, May 06, 2008

BSB Oulton Park: Shakey Shines Again

Shakey Byrne did the double at an Oulton Park meeting that had more red flags than a "voluntary" government-organized parade in Beijing.

Race 1 was red-flagged after just 1 corner of racing. On the sighting lap, the riders discovered that it was tipping down rain around the back of the track. When they got back to the grid, they all sat looking each other. Just to spice things up, some clown extinguished the red lights and started the race. They all shrugged their shoulders and took off, several of them actually getting round turn 1. Tom Sykes was among those who ended up on his backside, and not for the last time...

When the race was re-started, everybody was on wet tyres. Shakey Byrne won after working his way through the pack and inheriting the lead when polesitter Cal Crutchlow tried too hard and ran his HM Plant Honda off the track. Tom Sykes impressed on the Rizla Suzuki, but his challenge evaporated when he went straight on at a chicane. Leon Haslam on the other HM Plant machine got faster and faster as the track dried, sticking his nose briefly ahead of Byrne's Ducati only to run wide. The wily old fox managed to frustrate young Haslam's ambitions by being quick where it mattered and slow where it didn't, and Shakey took his 2nd win of the season.

Unluckiest man in the paddock Karl Harris tried a little bit too hard and fell off in the tricky drying conditions, his bike carrying on valiantly without him for a few seconds just in case there were any more flying Rizla Suzukis in the vicinity. Harris was battered but OK, and luckily is the only person tough enough to brave the wrath of his team boss Rob Mac without fleeing the country.

Race 2 was where things got really interesting, as the weather had dried out and some real racing could take place. Shakey Byrne didn't have a great start, but things went from bad to worse when he nearly crashed and ended up having to take a short cut around a chicane. When he finally found a gear low enough to take off again, he was in 13th place, but happy not to have fallen off.

Tom Sykes continued to show why he's one of the highest rated youngsters in the paddock by leading the race in fine style. Unfortunately, he was still leading when he was assaulted from nowhere by HM Plant Honda's Leon Hazard. Sorry, that's Leon Bedlam. Young Bedlam went for a gap that wasn't there, and the hapless Sykes tipped the bike in only to find a Honda Fireblade slamming into him like a freight train. He was distraught as the bike flipped over and landed in a steaming heap in the grass, his first victory having been ripped out of his hands. Bedlam ran off the track and carried on, but was excluded from the race by the stewards, who have had just about enough of this pair colliding.

At least Karl Harris wasn't nearby to get whacked by the flying Suzuki this time, although he managed to fall off a few laps later just to bring a few more tears to Rob Mac's eyes. Harris and the Yamaha are both hugely impressive this year in terms of pace, but whenever they don't get crashed into, they do it themselves. A little patience and "Bomber" will start racking up some serious points to add to his current total of zero.

The red flags appeared once again, waving all over the place like a 1980's Labour Party conference, after Cal Crutchlow crashed all on his own again, this time sustaining a dislocated ankle. (Yowwww!!!) So far this year, Crutchlow is damned quick, sometimes a bit too quick. He certainly looks like he has team-mate Leon Bedlam under control, so long as he can stay on the bike. In addition to Crutchlow's crash, two of the privateers had also visited the scenery on the same lap. With marshals all over the place dragging bikes to safety and medics attending Crutchlow on the outside of a terrifyingly fast corner, the red flags were fully justified. Hopefully the quacks will be able to pop Cal's ankle back together and get him out for the next race.

Shakey Byrne had a brilliant race, picking off everybody one by one and showing he can win from the front, or from close to the back. The Ducati is perfectly suited to Oulton, and Shakey is perfectly suited to the Ducati, keeping it nice and smooth and using the thunderous torque of the big V-twin.

James Ellison finished 2nd on his Honda, to the joy of his many fans and the amazement of anyone who ever saw him race in MotoGP. Although a lot of people fell off in front of him, Ellison was actually very close to the pace of the leaders, so it wasn't a total fluke by any means.

Leon "Giraffe" Camier finished 3rd to complete his brace of podiums. Very impressive, considering that he hurt himself horribly last year, and hurt himself a bit more in pre-season testing. He's doing well to stay anywhere near the pace of a Ducati-meister like Shakey.

This season is turning out to be really interesting. Not the championship battle, Shakey Byrne will win that at a canter. It's the quality of racing. Sykes and Crutchlow have been brilliant, and the chaos that's following Leon Bedlam this year has just added spice to the mix. Next time out it's "Round One" from Brands, and there are scores to settle...

1 comment:

Nicebloke said...

Agreed, the championship is already over, but BSB is shaping up to be terrific.