With the team already down to one bike due to financial constraints, Byrne's title challenge could well be blighted before it even gets underway. Still, Sterilgarda have a fine talisman in Byrne and so long as he maintains his form over the first few rounds, it won't be long before sponsors will hopefully be falling over each other to become associated with him…
Jonathan Rea - Ten Kate Honda
Big things are expected of Jonathan Rea in 2009 following a superb maiden season in the World Supersport category, one that saw him up at the front from the very beginning and taking the challenge to his more esteemed team-mate Andrew Pitt.
Although he didn't win the title, just getting close to Pitt was enough to see him promoted to Ten Kate's Superbike effort, where they will be hoping to avoid a repeat of the trouble Kenan Sofuoglu
had in adapting last year.
Early signs suggest that is unlikely to happen, with Rea not only proving competitive in testing, but also getting the jump on team-mates Carlos Checa
and Ryuichi Kiyonari, both of whom have been tipped for a title challenge this year.
Although team manager Ronald ten Kate is keeping his aims fairly modest for Rea, the Northern Irishman's impressive, if erratic, performance during last year's season finale at Portimao certainly provided a clue as to what he could be capable of this year with some fine honing.
Whether he can provide a challenge for the title remains to be seen. Rea is a British Superbike race winner, while his season learning the world championship ropes in Supersports has given him an insight into, not only the circuits, but the experience of racing away from home.
At worst, podiums and race wins should be his aim in 2009, but there is no reason why this year can't be the foundation for something even greater in the future…
Tom Sykes - Yamaha Italia
It is amazing what a couple of headline-grabbing performances on the World Superbike stage can do for your career – just ask Tom Sykes…
In 2008, he started the season as a rising British Superbike star, but ended it with a plum factory Yamaha contract in his back pocket. Surprising it may have been, but it certainly wasn't through lack of effort.
Even so, of the five British riders taking part in 2009, Sykes comes with the most pressure applied to his shoulders.
With very little knowledge of the circuits he will compete on this year, Sykes is arguably the least experienced factory-backed rider this season. With increased competition from six other manufacturers, Sykes will be determined not to get swept up in the mid-field – after all, with 15 factory riders on the grid, one of them has to be at least 15th…