After a long period of silence on the rider signing front in World Superbikes comes a flurry of contract announcements in the series. The Sterilgarda Yamaha team line up was announced over the past couple of days, and today comes an announcement from the Ten Kate Honda team that Ulsterman Johnny Rea will be staying with the team for 2011.
On the face of it, the announcement contains nothing of great interest - other than Rea's wholly unsurprising statement that he hopes to move into MotoGP in 2012 with Honda - and yet there are a few things in the press release that are at the very least curious and worthy of closer inspection. Perhaps the strangest thing about the press release is the fact that it was entirely unnecessary. The statement says that Rea "is currently in the second year of a three-year contract with the team" which begs the question as to why issue a press release on the subject at all. The release adds no information to what we knew already, but is perhaps more informative for what it leaves out.
There have been rumors that Ten Kate may field just one rider for 2011, and an information-free press release announcing the fact that Jonathan Rea will not be tearing up his contract could be the method through which the announcement is to be made. The decision to run just a single rider is predicated on two factors: The first is the failure of Max Neukirchner to produce any form of results this season, the German probably still not fully recovered from his huge crash at Monza last season. The second is that the rumors that Ten Kate could lose their HANNSpree sponsorship would leave the team short of funds to run both a World Superbike and a World Supersport team.
No doubt that if the Ten Kate team is to field two riders for 2011, there will be an announcement about that shortly. The name of James Toseland - now officially out of the Sterilgarda Yamaha team - has been bandied about, but much depends on the sponsorship that Ten Kate find to run the team.
The text of the press release is shown below:
REA, TEN KATE AND HONDA TOGETHER FOR 2011 TITLE ASSAULT
The Hannspree Ten Kate Honda team has confirmed that its rider Jonathan Rea will be aiming his Honda CBR1000RR squarely at the World Superbike championship title once again in 2011.
Rea joined the team in 2008 for the World Supersport championship and finished as runner up to his team-mate Andrew Pitt. He is currently in the second year of a three-year contract with the team and lies in third place in the 2010 World Superbike championship standings with four wins so far this year.
The 23-year-old, originally from Northern Ireland but now living on the Isle of Man, has displayed an impressive level of maturity and consistency in his first two seasons of World Superbike competition that has resulted in a total of six race victories and 18 podium finishes, with two rounds (four races) remaining in the 2010 season.
I'm really happy to be staying with this fantastic team for another seaso n. We're all pulling in the same direction and we're all really excited about the prospects for the Honda CBR1000RR. Even though I'm still only 23, the team has taught me an enormous amount about world championship racing, both on the track and off it and I've become a regular race winner. To become a championship winner, I recognise that I need continuity and that's what I've got now. It's no secret that my ultimate ambition is to compete in GPs but I'll still only be 24 next season so I'm really happy to aim for the World Superbike title in 2011 and then hopefully take the next step forward after that within the Honda family.
Ronald ten Kate – team manager
It's good to see a rider of Jonathan's calibre spend his entire career to date with the Honda family. At the beginning of this agreement, it was always the intention of the rider, the team and Honda to stay together and we are very happy to see that realised now. Jonathan joined us in Supersport ranks in 2008 and his raw talent has combined with a great attitude and personality to turn him into a race winner. Next year, our only aim will be to turn that race winner into a championship winner.
Carlo Fiorani – sporting manager, Honda Europe Motorcycles
Of course, we are all very proud to keep Jonathan with Honda next season. It is clear that he his one of the most exciting talents in any world championship paddock right now. Together with Ten Kate Racing, we are very happy to work for another season to focus on the prestigious World Superbike championship title.