HAWICK’S Stuart Easton, who came close to death when he suffered a horrific high-speed crash in the North West 200 race in Northern Ireland in 2011, notched his first British Superbike podium on his home circuit at Knockhill.
But the 30-year-old Borderer’s impressive performance was overshadowed by two other riders at the Fife circuit.
Londoner Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne, and Japanese ace Ryuichi Kiyonari — both triple British Superbike champs — each took a win and second place in yesterday’s two 30-lap races. And their speed and commitment was mesmerising.
While Kiyonari led from start-to-finish in the opening race, eventually bringing his Buildbase BMW home 4.861secs ahead of Byrne — with the Englishman’s Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki team-mate Easton third — it was the second race which was a belter.
Blasting off the start line, Byrne led down through the opening right-left-hander at Duffus Dip and looked to establish a comfortable advantage. Kiyonari though had other ideas, and clearly buoyed by his first win for his new BMW team, set about hunting down Byrne.
On the fourth lap, the Japanese ace set a new lap record of 48.423s, eclipsing the previous best set by Byrne in the opener of 48.435s.
With ten laps remaining, Kiyonari outbraked Byrne into the newly realigned hairpin, eased down the inside line and took the lead.
But 1.3-miles later on the next lap, he made an uncharacteristic mistake exiting the hairpin and gifted the lead back to Byrne.
Many might have thought Kiyonari would have settled for second place, safe in the knowledge he’d have scored two strong podiums. But not the Japanese rider.
With two laps to go, he broke the lap record for a second time, setting a new best of 48.253s as he stalked Bryne. But as they both accelerated out of the hairpin up the start/finish straight, it was Byrne who took the chequered flag by just 0.176secs.
“It’s fair to say Kiyo has been the man to beat here all weekend,” Byrne, who now leads the championship by 79 points, admitted. “He’s been riding absolutely phenomenal and his pace, lap, after lap, after lap has been fantastic. I put some decent laps together, then Kiyo came back and passed me, then he made his mistake and I thought ‘quick, quick, go, go go’.
“But he came back again and really put me under pressure again right to the chequered flag.”
And Kiyonari was kicking himself after making the mistake which let Byrne retain the lead in the second race.
“I’m disappointed, but I’m happy with a double podium. Shakey is very fast,” the 31-year-old said afterwards. “I just tried to follow, and then pass, but it was almost impossible. Plus I made many mistakes, and they were all my fault. Next time I try to make no mistakes and win again.”
Easton, 30, who graduated to the BSB after winning the British Supersport title last year, was delighted with his first podium of the year.
“To get my first British Superbike podium at my home race, in front of my family and friends, and such a great Scottish support, is fantastic,” he said.