Shane Byrne insists he will be the underdog when racing commences for the opening World Superbike Championship round of the season at Phillip Island.

For many, the British rider has moved into title contention after dominating pre-season testing at Portimao, but Byrne is playing down his chances in Australia having decided to sit-out the test there last week.

Still, while his Sterilgarda Ducati team is down to one rider for at least the opening two rounds of the season, Byrne is confident he will still be up at the front from the word go.

"I know the Phillip Island circuit as I did a test in 2004 while I was still competing for Aprilia in the MotoGP and I have to say I really like it. As far as I'm concerned, I will be the underdog because other riders have recently had the opportunity to test on this particular track.

"Nevertheless, I have confidence in my team who have done a great job setting up the bike during the Portimao tests and I rely on the very fast Ducati 1098. Besides, my goal for the new season is to fight for the top spot."

Although he admits to missing Alex Polita on the second bike, team manager Marco Borciani is hopeful Byrne will ensure Sterilgarda is represented at the front of the field.

"We are very confident ahead of the first round. In fact, Shane has been the fastest rider at the official testing in Portimao last month and we hope he will be out there fighting for the top spot in Australia as well.

"He is very comfortable with the bike and the Ducatis have proven to be very competitive. The only regret is we couldn't have Alex Polita compete in the first round."

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