Team Suzuki boss Paul Denning has stated that the 2006 British Superbike season will be a "do or die" year for former MotoGP rider Shane Byrne - if the Briton wants Suzuki backing for a return to world championship action.
Byrne moved straight to MotoGP, with Aprilia, after clinching the 2003 BSB crown for Monstermob Ducati. With the Italian team pulling out of the premier-class at the end of that season, Shakey then signed a late deal to ride the ill fated Team Roberts/KTM project in 2005 - which itself folded just after the midway point of the season.
Unwilling to spend a third year on uncompetitive machinery, Byrne has put his MotoGP dream on hold and signed to ride for Denning's Rizla Suzuki squad in BSB next season - a team which last won the prestigious national title with John Reynolds in 2004, but which lost out to HM Plant Honda and Airwaves Ducati this season, partly due to a career ending injury for Reynolds.
recently caught up with both Byrne and Denning at the Crescent team's headquarters to talk about 2006 and beyond...
"The thing that always made me very, very MotoGP was the support that I got from Dorna," explained Byrne. "The guys at Dorna have been fantastic and pushed real hard for me (to stay), but there was quite a lot of uncertainty and I really, really wanted to go into a season having everything signed, sealed and delivered.
"I'm desperate to get back to the front of any championship again - I've spent two years wobbling around in GPs and it's really, really difficult to line-up on the grid and know you haven't got a chance of winning.
"There were a few rides available for 2006, but the most important thing was to have the most competitive package. The guys here at Crescent have done a great job and the Rizla Suzuki is flying. They've had a bad year this year but hopefully we can turn it all around and have a great season together next year," he added.
Byrne then hinted that there was more to his new BSB deal than perhaps meets they eye - and that it certainly doesn't spell the end of his MotoGP ambitions.
"There's more to me coming back to BSB than you might perhaps think: Paul's obviously the owner of the Rizla Suzuki team and he just so happens to be the boss of the Suzuki MotoGP squad!" Shakey smiled. "So I'm hoping that a good season under my belt in BSB will perhaps open a few doors back to GP, on a more competitive bike..."