By Dan Moakes
November 15 2003
Almost out of the blue, British Superbike champion Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne has been announced as the first rider in Aprilia’s 2004 MotoGP squad. With MonsterMob Ducati’s chances of moving to World Superbikes diminished, Byrne is making the step to the biggest class of all.
The English rider was possibly the top Superbike rider this year, having defeating Neil Hodgson, Rubén Xaus and all the rest when he rode against the WSB regulars at Brands Hatch, as well as the best that the UK could throw at him. Even so, his move onto the tricky RS ‘Cube’ in Grands Prix comes as a bit of a surprise.
With Colin Edwards joining the Telefónica MoviStar Honda team, and Noriyuki Haga released by Aprilia, Olivier Jacque, Garry McCoy and Jeremy McWilliams are thought to be in contention for the ride alongside Byrne. With Hodgson on a d’Antín Ducati, it could be a good season for UK riders.
In other news, fellow Brit Chris ‘the Stalker’ Walker has been signed to replace James Haydon as the second Foggy Petronas FP1 rider in World Superbikes for 2004. Troy Corser is retained as team leader on the three-cylinder machine, and they will be chasing podium visits in the bike’s second year of competition.