Shane Byrne has admitted his hopes of winning this year's World Superbike title could come down to whether his Sterilgarda Ducati team can keep up with the development of their factory rivals.
The reigning British Superbike Championship slashed his odds on a title assault after a dominant performance during pre-season testing at Portimao, Byrne topping all three days, as well as leading the way in the wet and during a Superpole simulation.
Out pacing the factory Xerox Ducati team in the process, it means Byrne is being tipped for a surprise championship challenge this year, an objective he thinks he is capable of targeting too.
"I've won two BSB championships and I'd like to have a go at winning the world title,” he told the World Superbike website. “What I really like is that even with a non-factory bike you can be competitive.”
However, while Byrne is pleased to be currently on the pace, he admits he is worried about what will happen to a potential title challenge if Sterilgarda cannot maintain the development of their better-funded rivals for the season's entirety.
“The only risk is that you don't get any updates throughout the year and you get left behind by development. But at the moment we are right on the pace.”
Kicking off with a circuit he already knows, Byrne is nonetheless feeling confident about what will be his first full season as a World Superbike rider.
"We start off with four tracks I know well and so I'm pretty confident. In any case I learn quickly and I don't think I'll have many problems throughout the year. We've still got some more work to do but the fact that the bike, as well as the Pirelli tyres, are similar to what I used last year in BSB makes things easier."