Thursday, September 06, 2007

BSB: Johnny Rea Signs For Ten Kate

British Superbike rider Johnny Rea has signed a contract with the Ten Kate team, beginning with a year of World Supersport, followed by two years of World Superbike if all goes according to plan.
Rea is currently sitting in 2nd place of the British Superbike championship with the HM Plant Honda team, behind his team-mate, reigning BSB champ Ryuichi Kiyonari. The 20 year old Ulsterman has truly come of age this year, having won his first superbike race along with Kiyo in the Suzuka 300km enduro, then returned to the UK to take 5 BSB wins so far this season and become the youngest rider ever to collect a pole, podium and victory in the British Superbike championship.
It has surprised some people that Rea has chosen to join Ten Kate in the World Supersport championship, when he had an offer from the Xerox Ducati team in WSBK. However, he has close links with Honda, as the HM Plant team receives factory support and he raced for HRC in the Suzuka 300km. He was disappointed to be the unused reserve rider in the Suzuka 8 hours, but it is hard to blame HRC for replacing him with a certain James Toseland (who fell off on his 3rd lap and has since left Honda!)
I consider it to be a great move for Johnny. World Supersport is a closely fought championship and he is moving to the best team. Chris Vermeulen's recent performances in MotoGP show what a World Supersport champion can do on the new 800cc GP bikes.
Vermeulen took the Dutch Ten Kate Honda team's second WSS championship in 2003, following on from the team's first world title with Fabian Foret the previous year. In fact, with Turkish rider Kenan "Superglu" Sofoglu having wrapped up the 2007 title already, Ten Kate have taken the last 6 WSS championships in a row, and are on course to take their first WSBK title with James Toseland.
As WSS races on the same tracks as WSBK, Rea will have the chance to race at many international circuits in a closely contested championship with a fantastic team. He will also become well known throughout the WSBK paddock, and make a name for himself on the world stage.
Ten Kate's WSBK team will be using brand new 2008-model Honda Fireblade CBR1000RR's, and the need for experienced riders to develop the new machines has led to rumours of a Kiyonari - Carlos Checa partnership. This may be another reason why Rea has agreed to move to WSS rather than the top production bike class. With Ten Kate being the top team in WSS, and the Honda CBR600RR being the top bike, he is sure to be challenging for wins during the year. It will be a big step up for the cocky little Northern Irish rider, but he has proved he is up to the challenge. He can only move onwards and upwards from now on.

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