Honda Racing UK is excited to announce a brand-new project with Honda Motor Co., Ltd. - the Honda Superbike Challenge Program. Rolling out for the 2021 season, the new project will support racers competing in national championships worldwide, to take further steps in their racing careers.
Joining forces with Honda’s head office in Japan, the programme will see Honda Racing UK’s participation in the British Superbike Championship sit within Honda’s global racing activities from MotoGP, World Superbike and the All-Japan Championship.
As part of the ‘Honda Superbike Challenge Program’, Honda Racing UK have signed Ryo Mizuno for the 2021 Bennetts British Superbike Championship aboard the race winning CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP. Bringing a wealth of experience from the All-Japan series, as well as the Suzuka 8 Hours aboard Fireblade machinery, this will be the first time Ryo has raced on UK soil.
Honda Racing UK has enjoyed past success with Japanese riders, having won the British Superbike Championship three times with Ryuichi Kiyonari (2006, 2007, 2010) and Ryo too has championship titles to his name having won the All-Japan J-GP3 championship in 2015 and the All-Japan J-GP2 Championship in 2017.
Ryo’s teammate in BSB will be Glenn Irwin, who remains with Honda after a successful debut year with the team. During the 2020 season Glenn enjoyed a win and five podium finishes, eventually wrapping up the season fourth overall. Showing the potential of the new Fireblade Glenn led the title fight for the majority of the season and will be looking towards the title in 2021.
As well as a two-man team in the Superbike class, Tom Neave will continue in the Pirelli National Superstock 1000 Championship, where in 2020 he narrowly missed out on the title to finish runner-up. Throughout the shortened season, Tom scored the most race wins in the Superstock championship in what was an impressive debut year for the new Fireblade SP.
The team are busy preparing for the start of the 2021 Bennetts British Superbike Championship with official testing getting underway in April.
Ryo Mizuno: “I’m really looking forward to this new challenge, signing a deal with the Honda Racing UK team to ride the new CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP in the British championship. Thanks to all my family, friends and personal sponsors. I can't wait to get started and hope to have a lot of success in front of our fans later this year.”
Glenn Irwin: “I’m really happy to continue with Honda Racing and to carry on the development of the new Fireblade. 2020 was a really refreshing year that perhaps brought success earlier than I anticipated. For 2021 we have extensive development to go through which for sure will improve our package further. That said, there won’t be any room for complacency which I have experienced before, so we won’t be making bold predictions from a results perspective. As a team we know from the work carried out over the winter, we have a strong base to continue developing the Fireblade. Working with Ryo is exciting in itself, with Ryo coming from a completely different racing background. I am excited to see how his feedback improves us.”
Tom Neave: “I’m delighted to be going into my third season with Honda Racing. My ultimate aim is to be on the Superbike but I think it’s important that I complete another full year on the Superstock Fireblade to refine and build on everything we learnt last season. We had a strong year and finishing as runner-up has motivated me more than ever to claim that number 1. I’m so grateful to Honda and all my sponsors for sticking by me and I can’t wait to get 2021 underway!”
Havier Beltran - Honda Racing UK Team Manager: "This is a very exciting time for Honda Racing UK joining forces with Honda Motor Co., Ltd. and will be great to have their support in what are uncertain times for everyone and not just in the racing world. Our participation in BSB will now sit within Honda's global two-wheel racing programme, which echoes past years when we had backing from HRC. It's a great project to be involved with and we of course have a very good track record with Japanese riders, Kiyo won the title three times with us and Ryo brings a huge amount of experience and also talent with him. His lap times at the Suzuka 8 Hours last year were impressive and although the British circuits are very different, I think he will enjoy them and be competitive on the Fireblade SP.”
Soichi Yamana – Department Manager, Motorcycle Department, Motor Sports Division, Honda Motor Co., Ltd.: "Honda is excited to have the opportunity to nurture new talent in BSB through our new Honda Superbike Challenge Program, set up with Honda Racing UK. This program aims to produce world-class riders through encouraging skill development by experiencing demanding racing conditions. We believe BSB, with its wide variety of tracks throughout the UK, provides the perfect framework. Through this program, Honda will discover young talent from within its worldwide network, and strive to nurture the next generation of top riders. We cannot wait for the 2021 BSB season to start.”
Neil Fletcher - Head of Motorcycles, Honda UK: "We've been working on this project with Honda Japan for some time and I am very excited to see it happening. The British championship is intensely competitive and to have Ryo joining the team and coming to the series is a positive for everyone involved. Honda take great pride in developing young riders, whether it's getting people on two wheels on the road or nurturing and developing young talent through racing. The Honda British Talent Cup is a hugely successful programme designed to get racers into MotoGP, so with the Honda Superbike Challenge Program we can also target Superbike championships across the world. I'm excited for the 2021 season and to see Ryo, Glenn and Tom in action.”
Stuart Higgs – Series Director, Bennetts British Superbike Championship: “The inclusion of the Bennetts British Superbike Championship within Honda’s global racing activities is great recognition, especially in these turbulent times. As the championship celebrates its 25th Anniversary season, comparisons will of course be drawn to the period of HRC factory participation and the success of Ryuichi Kiyonari which I am sure new signing Ryo Mizuno will wish to emulate. Honda in the UK is a cornerstone of the British Championship and 2021 will see increased representation in the BSB and Superstock classes and a continuation of the Honda British Talent Cup, designed to propel the next generation of British riders into World Championship competition.”