By Peter McLaren and Andy Stobart

Former British Superbike champion Shane Byrne will get his second bite at the MotoGP cherry this season, after signing an eleventh hour contract to ride a Team Roberts run Proton KR-KTM in the 2005 world championship.

"Well as of about 10 or 15-minutes ago I'm actually officially going to be riding in MotoGP now - I've just signed my contract - so I'm a happy boy, you've got me at a good time," revealed Shakey, when caught up with him at last week's London MotoGP launch.

The revelation proved irresistible: "So what were the terms on that contract, they're fresh on your mind, you'll be able to tell us?"

"I can't remember how many zeros there were, but there weren't enough that's for sure!" Byrne joked. "No, it's a really good deal and I'm really happy. They say good things come to those who wait and I think I've waited long enough.

"It's the perfect combination of youth and experience; the experience of the Roberts team and the youth - and newness - of KTM. Now all I've got to do is get on and get the thing going better."

Looking back slightly, Shane was then asked about the situation with his 2004 employer Aprilia. Byrne had signed a multi-year deal with the under funded Italian team, but they were forced to pull out of the premier-class at the end of last season, leaving the Brit, and his team-mate Jeremy McWilliams, high and dry.

However, Shakey holds no ill feeling towards Aprilia - with whom he turned heads in the early part of last year despite riding a 2003 spec machine. Byrne took his RS Cube to a best finish of 10th on his way to 20th in the championship, having missed six out of the last seven races due to a broken wrist.

"That's one thing that I'd like to go on air saying; I owe Aprilia great deal, it was them that gave me my shot in MotoGP, they took the risk that not many people in MotoGP seem to take and gave me a shot at it in the first place, so I owe them," said. Byrne. "That all came to an amicable end a couple of weeks ago. Now it's on to new things."

And what other options were on the table for this year?

"There were a lot of options on the table - but a long, long time ago," replied Byrne, who was being pursued by his former BSB boss Paul Bird, who eventually signed McWilliams. "I've got this bug called MotoGP. I don't want to be anywhere else now; I really, really like it here. There are some nice people around, you get to see the world and it's an unbelievable lifestyle.

"My mum's a housewife and my dad works on the railways, they live in a council house and their son's off all over the world and getting paid some money to do it - so it's quite different from anything they're used to. Like I said I don't want to be anywhere other than here," he explained.

Byrne was then asked to assess the current strengths and weaknesses of the newly born Proton KR-KTM, which he took to just the 20th fastest time (out of 22 riders) at the final pre-season test session, at Jerez, in what was only his third outing on the bike.

"I think the strengths are that - with the Aprilia last year we had a bike that had lots of power, but was quite aggressive - this year we've got the KTM which is just too flat - it's too easy to ride - it's so, so, smooth," he stated. "They've done such a good job with the engine that we actually need to bring in some of that aggression now.

"To do that with the Aprilia last year we would have had to take away horsepower to calm it down, but what we need from the KTM is more aggression - and that is only going to bring on the horsepower - so it's a no lose situation.

"Those changes are going to be made throughout the season and we don't know where that's going to take us," he continued. "It could be that we're starting the season with a bike that is going to scrape a few points at the first couple of GPs, to ending the season on a bike that is going to be a whole, whole lot better than that.

"It's just a really exciting and fresh project that I'm really looking forward to being part of."

Given how long it's taken to sort things out, how has Byrne spent the off-season - other than on the phone trying to sort out a ride?

"Worrying, pretty much," he said, only half-joking. "I could officially be a saint now, because I've needed the patience of one to wait for all this to be sorted out! But yeah, it's been a long, long winter - it's not been easy and I've probably not been the nicest person in the world to be around.

"It's difficult when people are telling you 'by such-and-such it's going to be sorted' and then you get to such-and-such and 'yeah well, we just need another week or so...' That's gone on with a number of teams throughout the winter and it just drives you absolutely bonkers. But good things come to those who wait and we've waited long enough and I think this is a good thing," he added.

Finally, after one year in the sport, what does Shane think are the best and worst things about MotoGP?

"The best thing is the whole spectacle, the fact that it is the championship. If you want to be somebody then you've got to be MotoGP world champion really. I think once you achieve that then you'd have every right to strut about a bit and say 'I'm the man' sort of thing!

"The crap thing about it is how hard it is. It's so, so, difficult to come from BSB and from winning World Superbike races to getting in to MotoGP and wobbling around battling for points, you think 'god, what is this all about?'

"But I think there are a few people that are coming towards the end of their career and there are some exciting guys that are going to be doing some big things this year, and hopefully there may be some opportunities next year. We'll just see how we go..." he concluded.

Shakey will make his GP debut for Team Roberts on day one of the season-opening Spanish Grand Prix, at Jerez, this Friday.



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