Ratthapark Wilairot is to return to racing, and will compete in the 2014 World Supersport championship. The Thai rider will be joining the PTR Honda team for the 2014 season, racing a CBR600RR alongside Jack Kennedy and Nacho Calero.
Wilairot's return comes after an announcement in August last year that he would be retiring from racing, stepping down from the Gresini Moto2 team with immediate effect. That announcement was met with a good deal of incredulity, especially as the decision was made by the team, at the behest of Thai Honda, who had backed Wilairot until that point. Reports from Thailand suggested that the decision had been involuntary, coming as it did mid-season, and after a string of mediocre results. But Wilairot's successor, Thitipong Warokorn, fared worse than Wilairot, raising even more doubt about the reason for the announcement.
Wilairot joins PTR hoping to get his career back on track. The Thai rider showed promise in the early years of his career, but struggled to find his form after a serious road accident before the 2011 Moto2 season. He suffered serious injury for a second time in 2011, this time being hit from behind by Marc Marquez in Australia, when the Spaniard continued on a hot lap after practice had finished, in flagrant breach of the regulations. Wilairot follows in the footsteps of Jules Cluzel, who also switched to World Supersport from Moto2.
Below is the press release issued by PTR Honda announcing Wilairot's signing:
Wilairot joins PTR for 2014 title challenge
RATTHAPARK WILAIROT will ride for the Core PTR Honda team in the 2014 World Supersport Championship.
From Thailand, the former Moto2 rider is switching classes and looking to challenge at the front in the World Supersport Championship.
The 25-year-old from Chonburi has 250cc GP experience under his belt as well. He said: "I am really happy to be racing for Core PTR Honda in the World Supersport Championship. Our aims are the same. We want to race at the front and challenge for the podium. I think together we will be able to do this and I am looking forward to getting to know the team and bike better."
Wilairot follows in the footsteps of former Moto2 racer Jules Cluzel who joined PTR in 2012 and won four races on his way to runner up in the series.
PTR Honda Team Manager Simon Buckmaster said: "We are excited to have Ratthapark join us as he has undoubted talent and raw speed as he has proved in Moto2 and 250GP. He is a quick rider that I think will benefit from having one of the best bikes in the Championship and a team fully behind him as he goes for the best results possible.
"Ratthapark will race in Core PTR Honda colours but he will benefit from being in the same garage as Jack Kennedy on the CIA PTR Honda bike. Nacho Calero on the other CIA PTR Honda bike will also benefit from the experience and speed around him. Together I think these racers will push and encourage each other to achieve the best they can and we are looking forward to testing in January already. We are looking to announce a fourth rider to complete the squad as soon as possible."
CIA PTR Honda and Core PTR Honda will test at Portimao in Portugal on 19-20th January.