Shane Byrne has the advantage in the early season title stakes but the former two times winner of the MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship needs to conquer the Croft circuit in North Yorkshire where so far he has not enjoyed a podium finish if he is to head off his challengers for the crown.
The HM Plant Honda rider won the opening round of the series on his return from World Superbike action and has taken second, third and fourth placings subsequently to open up an 11 points lead over MSS Colchester Kawasaki’s Stuart Easton with the reigning British Superbike champion Ryuichi Kiyonari just a single point down on them.
Byrne is boosted by the outcome of a test at Darley Moor which helped to sort the technical issues that beset him and Kiyonari at Oulton Park and believes that they can now come out running from the start of practice to be in a strong position for these third round British Superbike races.
Byrne has painful memories of his last outing at Croft British Superbike when he took a heavy tumble though bouncing back to take top five finishes that eased him nearer to his second title.
Shane Bryne says: “We made a bit of a breakthrough. The team is working very hard and now it is down to us to push as hard as we can. I’ve not had the best of results at Croft. I don’t dislike the place though it is not my favourite! The title is run over 12 rounds, so it is a case of doing the best job possible in each,” he added.
In contrast to Byrne’s modest record at the circuit, his best result in six appearances being two fourth placings, Kiyonari took four victories between 2005 and 2007, with a winning double in the latter though last year he took had a tough time, finishing eleventh and fourth.
The Japanese British Superbike rider reflected: “For me Croft has been a difficult track, although I have won there. It is very bumpy so the setting is going to be critical to be able to win. I want to be on the podium and winning again.”
Four different riders have taken a victory apiece so far. Byrne and Kiyonari are among them with Samsung Crescent Suzuki’s John Hopkins and Tommy Hill the others. American rider Hopkins is in buoyant mood after that maiden BSB success at Oulton Park and keen for an action replay on his first racing appearance at Croft but Hill faces a late fitness test before taking to the track aboard his Swan Yamaha.
Hill is recovering from ligament damage to his left shoulder sustained in a warm-up practice tumble which ruled him out of the Oulton Park races. He is determined to return to action on his team’s local circuit to put his title bid back on course with his team-mate Michael Laverty keen to improve on his pair of fifth placings last time out.
Easton however could be the rider to spoil their plans. He was a winner at the circuit two years ago and is now looking comfortable aboard the all-new Kawasaki. After securing second and third placings in the previous round the Scotsman believes that he can be the fifth rider of the season to enjoy the victor’s champagne.
Alex Lowes, riding for the WFR Honda team, is aiming to continue his domination of the Mirrror.co.uk BSB-EVO class in which he has taken a second place and three straight wins. That has put him well clear of the pack though his team-mates Glen Richards, keen to hit back after double disappointment last time out, and Graeme Gowland, shaking off a wrist to injury to race on his home track, could pose questions.