After a long winter out in the cold, literally as well as figuratively, Shane "Shakey" Byrne today made his first laps of the 2005 pre-season aboard Team Roberts' brand new Proton KR - KTM machine.
The Briton had spent much of the off-season wondering whether he actually had a ride at all in the MotoGP category for this upcoming season, having turned down several other opportunities in order to give the world's premier series another shot after a season with the now disbanded Aprilia MotoGP team.
However, the former British Superbike Champion is highly thought of amongst those in the know within the MotoGP paddock, and when the chance to ride for three-time World Champion Kenny Roberts' British based team, Byrne knew it was his last option to ride in MotoGP for 2005.
"To be honest it's not all signed and sealed yet, but being here and on the track makes it feel a lot closer," said the Briton, who hasn't ridden since the end of last season.
"I've been sat at home all winter waiting every day for a contract, and it makes such a change from last year when the phone never stopped ringing and I knew the November before more or less what I was doing. I really wanted to stay here in MotoGP though, I didn't want to be another British rider who just gives it a year and moves on, so this will hopefully give me the chance to show what I can do."
At the Valencia circuit today, Byrne used the Proton KR chassis, developed through years of experience by Kenny Roberts Sr.'s GP Motorsports company, based in the Formula One belt in Britain, fitted with the powerful new KTM V4 engine, which already made waves with on-track tests at Brno and Jerez last year. In his first outing on board the machine and with Michelin supporting the joint effort, the Englishman set a best lap of 1'39.0 after 45 laps of the track today.
"The engine is smooth, almost too smooth at the moment," grinned Byrne, adding, "It makes such a change from the Aprilia, which seemed to almost want to throw you off at every opportunity. It's like the two bikes are complete opposites. The track was a little slippery today too, and it was a bit disconcerting having been off for five months or so and having the bike slipping around on you. It was cold and it took two laps to warm the tyres up fully, but then when I got going I was coming back into the box again, so I didn't get too many laps in. Hopefully things will come together a bit more tomorrow."