by Peter McLaren and Andy Stobart

Aprilia's Shane Byrne starts the second half of a 'character building' rookie MotoGP season with his home event, the British Grand Prix, this weekend at Donington Park.

The reigning British Superbike champion has scored points in four of his eight MotoGP races to date; claiming a best finish of tenth in the slippery six-lap sprint that would decide the Italian Grand Prix.

But while the majority of the premier-class grid are running new and substantially improved machinery, Byrne is still riding an updated version of the brutal 2003 RS Cube...

"When I signed my deal we were supposed to start the season on a new bike," Byrne told "They're working hard to get the new bike done but it's not ready yet, that's frustrating as I was supposed to have tested (the 2003) bike a couple of times and then be on a new bike all this year."

However, the Brit believes riding last year's machine could actually be 'a bit of a blessing' for someone seeking to establish a reputation in the ultimate two-wheeled world championship...

"Maybe its been a bit of a blessing in disguise because everybody knows what bike I'm on," he stated. "It's a known package and if I'm riding it as fast as Colin Edwards or Noriyuki Haga then Shane Byrne ain't doing a bad job really - and that's basically what I've been doing."

Byrne was then asked how hard it was psychologically to go from regularly winning BSB races to battling for the final few world championship points in MotoGP.

"I watched the BSB races from Mallory on TV in Germany the other day and I so miss being at the front of the pack, it's so frustrating, but what can you do?" shrugged Shakey, who won both BSB races at Donington last season. "It's never going to get any harder than this.

"But in some respects I'm loving it," he revealed. "I can walk through the paddock and nobody wants to talk to me so it's perfect, you know what I mean? It's spot on, and there's no pressure, it's not like where Nicky Hayden was last year where you're in a situation where you've got to do well.

"Everybody knows where my bike's at and that's a good thing because all the time I'm matching what the boys did on the bike last year," reiterated the 27-year-old.

"I'm doing a fantastic job and the team are happy, people around the paddock are happy, the only person that's not really happy is me - but that's because I want more," he explained. "I'll never stop wanting more and I think that's what makes you the person you are."

Indeed, there is no doubt that Shakey has impressed much of the MotoGP paddock with his performances - especially in the wet - and has recently been linked to a 2005 race seat at Suzuki.

"I honestly don't know where they've come from," claimed Byrne when asked about the rumours, "but at the same time the Aprilia thing came out when I hadn't heard from Aprilia so maybe it's a good omen - I don't know - but no, I've not heard anything yet..."

'Shakey' currently sits nineteenth in the world championship standings, two-points clear of experienced team-mate, and friend, Jeremy 'Belfast' McWilliams.

Byrne will take to the Donington track for the first time on a MotoGP machine in Friday morning's free practice session.