Shane 'Shakey' Byrne has confessed that witnessing his new HM Plant Honda team-mate Ryuichi Kiyonari clinch a third career crown this year – surpassing his own tally of two – was the driving force behind his return to the MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship in 2011, reasoning that 'there is nothing more I want than to become the most successful rider in BSB history'.
Byrne last competed in the series back in 2008 – when he lifted the laurels for a second time – and since then, the 33-year-old has plied his trade in World Superbikes with Ducati's privateer Sterilgarda and Althea operations. However, just a single podium finish from 54 starts over the past two seasons has caused him to re-assess his career trajectory, and he has concluded that rather than risking another year of midfield monotony in WSBK, he would rather be fighting at the front in BSB.
A popular re-addition to the British Superbike Championship grid, 'Shakey' replaces Relentless Suzuki-bound Josh Brookes at HM Plant and will form – alongside Kiyonari – arguably the Lincolnshire-based outfit's strongest rider line-up ever. Throwing down the gauntlet to his rivals, he admits that he is far from back merely to make up the numbers.
“It is a nice feeling to know I am coming back to BSB,” the former MotoGP star told the championship's official website, “and it was great being back in the paddock for the final round at Oulton Park. I had several options for both BSB and WSBK, but going there that weekend helped me make the decision to return. I saw Kiyo win the title, and until then Niall Mackenzie had always been the leading rider in terms of championship wins – he had three to mine and Kiyo's two. Now Kiyo has three too, one more than me and I definitely want to equal the score!
“Every rider will tell you there is a rule in racing and that is to beat your team-mate – and mine is the reigning champion, so that's giving me real motivation! I am coming back to BSB to win races, score podiums and fight for the championship; I am a racer, and racers want to win.
“I have had two seasons of not winning a race, and I didn't want to be in the position this year where I would be competing for the top five or ten rather than wins and the top three. Good results and fighting for wins is what makes you push harder and ride at your best, and I can't wait to be back on that podium!
“I can't wait to be on the grid for round one at Brands Hatch next Easter, too; I have really missed racing there for the past two years, and it's still my home track. There is nowhere else really like it, and I have some great memories from there from my time before in BSB. It will be great being back racing in front of the home fans again – they really supported me in the past, and I know that when it comes to the season I will be pushing as hard as possible to get results.
“It's all very exciting, but I am not coming back thinking it's going to be a walk in the park. The competition in BSB is always high – you can see that from this season and how close it was right until the end. I want to be in that final Showdown, and there is no reason why we can't be – people ruled Kiyo out before the last round and thought he wasn't going to do it, and look how it turned out on the day.
“I am thinking of the long game; I don't want to win just one title, I want two as there is nothing more I want than to become the most successful rider in BSB history in terms of championship wins. I want to win the title again, and then come back with a number one plate to defend.”