Aprilia have officially confirmed that Jeremy McWilliams will ride alongside Shane Byrne in an all British 2004 MotoGP line-up.

BSB champ Byrne had been confirmed shortly after the season ending Valencia Grand Prix, but McWilliams had been expected to stay with Proton KR - whom he's raced since 2001 - until serious doubts were raised over their supply of Bridgestone tyres, which are still to be resolved.

That prompted McWilliams to look elsewhere and with Aprilia keeping class leading Michelins, despite losing Colin Edwards, the GP veteran was soon in talks with his former employers. The deal was closed today (Friday) when McWilliams flew to Italy and signed on the dotted line.

"I'm really up for the fight next year after signing this contract," explained the tough 39-year-old. "I'm very excited about rejoining a factory team like Aprilia. I'm sure we can make the bike competitive especially as we are using Michelin tyres. It's a great move for me and their bike this year was certainly more competitive than what I was riding."

McWilliams is no stranger to Aprilia machinery having secured his one and only grand prix victory at the 2001 250cc Dutch TT at Assen riding for the Italian factory (lower pic).

Both McWilliams and Byrne will be testing the 'pokey' three-cylinder in the next few weeks - Byrne having made his debut last week at Jerez.
"I loved it and it wasn't the handful I'd been expecting but it was so, so fast," revealed 27-year-old 'Shakey'. "Physically I was surprised because I expected it to be pulling my arms off, but I found it really enjoyable to ride."

Edwards and Noriyuki Haga rode the Cosworth powered RS Cube this season, with the Texan claiming Aprilia's best finish with sixth in the season opening Japanese Grand Prix.

Olivier Jacque and Garry McCoy had been outside contenders for the second Aprilia seat, but Jacque has now announced he won't be in MotoGP next year after failing to find a deal. McCoy's future is also in doubt and his best hope seems to be with WCM.

Meanwhile, McWilliams' departure from the Proton KR team could allow Kenny Roberts' son Kurtis to line-up alongside Nobuatsu Aoki on the Banbury based team's fast developing V5.

 

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