Newly crowned double British Superbike champion Shane Byrne will race in the World Superbike Championship in 2009, after completing a switch to the Sterilgarda Ducati team.
Byrne's immediate future has been a popular topic of speculation in recent months, but the Kent rider has always been quick to play down rumours linking him with a variety of berths.
However, following confirmation yesterday that he will not return to the British Championship to defend the crown he won at Silverstone this weekend, a move to GMB Racing, alias Sterilgarda Ducati, had been much anticipated.
Citing the chance to remain on a Ducati 1098 as a big draw for him, Byrne is thrilled to be getting a chance on the world stage having only previous competed as a (double race winning) wild-card.
"I'm absolutely delighted to be joining the Sterilgarda Go eleven team to participate in the 2009 WSB championship, it's the perfect progression for me having secured the 2008 BSB championship last weekend at Silverstone on very similar Ducati machinery, any team that can run riders of Max Biaggi and Ruben Xaus's standard can only be at the top of their game," he said.
"I look forward to benefiting from the team and Ducati's experience to make the transition as straightforward as possible for me and can't wait for my first opportunity to start working with my new team."
The Sterilgarda team have enjoyed decent success in just three seasons of World Superbike competition, with Xaus winning a race at Valencia last year and Misano this year, while Biaggi has been a frequent podium finisher.
However, with the two experienced riders moving on for 2009, team manager Marco Borciani describes Byrne has the ideal replacement to lead the team into next season.
"For the 2009 season we will line up two new riders. I would like to thank Ruben Xaus who helped the team to grow up in the last three years and Max Biaggi who have brought prestige to our team. I wish the best to both the riders for their new adventures respectively on BMW and Aprilia.
"In order to replace two great riders as Ruben and Max I searched for a sure talented rider who can be able to assure high-level performances. After many meetings with several riders, our choice has been defined on Shane, who has impressed me for his results and - above all - for his human skills."
Byrne becomes the fourth British rider to be confirmed to the bumper 2009 World Superbike grid, joining BSB counterpart Tom Sykes, as well as former rivals Tommy Hill and Jonathan Rea.
Meanwhile, Sterilgarda's Superstock rider, Alex Polita, is tipped to graduate to Superbikes to fill the second seat.