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British motorbike champion suing sport bodies over ‘catastrophic’ crash injuries

Shane Byrne has been unable to compete since the crash at a race track in Norfolk in 2018.

One of the country’s most successful motorbike riders is suing three sporting bodies after sustaining “catastrophic” injuries in a crash which left him unable to compete.

Shane Byrne, a six-time British Superbike Championship winner, collided with a barrier after coming off his bike at the Snetterton race track in Norfolk on May 17 2018, leaving him with several fractures and internal injuries.

The 47-year-old is now taking legal action against three bodies – Motorsport Vision Racing, which runs the championship, Motorsport Vision, which owns the track, and the Motorcycle Circuit Racing Control Board, a sport governing body – for damages, claiming that the barrier in place was insufficient and was responsible for his injuries.

The three groups deny the allegations, telling a trial in London that Mr Byrne was at fault for the accident.

Mr Byrne, known as Shakey, is the most successful rider in British Superbike Championship history with 85 race wins but has been unable to compete since the crash.

The incident occurred on a test day for the championship at turn three of the three-mile Snetterton circuit, known as Palmer Corner, while Mr Byrne was on his second lap.

Barrister Kiril Waite, representing the rider, said that after coming off the track at around 60mph, the bike went across a grass run-off area and both the vehicle and Mr Byrne hit a safety barrier, sustaining the “catastrophic” injuries as a result.

The barrier was known as a “Type D additional protective device (APD)”, which consisted of tyres bolted together and was the minimum level of protection available.

Mr Byrne (right) racing in 2014 (Danny Lawson/PA)
Shane Byrne (right) racing in 2014 (Danny Lawson/PA)

Mr Byrne hit the barrier at between 15 and 25mph, with Mr Waite telling the court that a “Type A” device, an air-filled barrier which acts as a shock absorber, was “the appropriate form of protection” and should have been in place at the corner, as it was elsewhere on the track.

Mr Waite continued that there was “no basis for the allegation that Mr Byrne rode incompetently” and it was “inherently implausible” that he rode off the track, instead claiming that there was “a loss of traction with the tarmac”.

He said: “Mr Byrne’s case is that, had Type A APD been fitted in front of the barrier, Mr Byrne would not have suffered the catastrophic injuries he did.

“The cause of his injuries was him striking a Type D hard-surfaced conveyor-belted tyre barrier.”

He continued: “In a nutshell, it is Mr Byrne’s case, as supported by expert evidence, that the ball was dropped.

“Type D was only minimum protection. Type A was superior… and the right protection for motorbikes.”

Lawyers for the sporting bodies told the court that Mr Byrne was to blame for the accident, and they were not at fault as a result.

In written submissions, their barrister, Malcolm Duthie, said that Mr Byrne’s injuries “are not caused by the absence of Type A”.

He said: “There were no faults with the motorcycle or the track, it is, therefore, the defendant’s contention that Mr Byrne was at fault for what occurred.

“But even if that is incorrect, the circumstances of his accident were unusual and the manner of his riding, even if regarded as an error of judgement and not contributorily negligent, was the substantial and real cause for why he came into contact with the barrier at all.”

The trial before Judge Peter Blair KC is set to conclude on May 22, with a judgment expected at a later date.

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