Last Friday’s Hydrex Honda launch was an impressive show of team owner Shaun Muir’s long-term commitment to the sport.
The team’s new workshop facility in Guisborough is by far one of the most outstanding all new facilities in BSB and the fact that Muir has a three-rider team and is building seven bikes is an impressive display of the team’s determination to succeed on all fronts.
It’s not only about hardware either. Along with team manager and chief technician Mick Shanley, the Hydrex Honda team of technicians are also top notch with Pete Jennings joining the team when Crescent scaled back their efforts to a one-man team.
But the question everyone is asking is this: why, after spending such a huge amount on getting the staff, the workshop and the bikes so right has Muir signed Karl Harris and Stuart Easton for BSB when they are not proven race winners.
Especially when Muir absolutely needs big results to keep backers like Hydrex happy.
Both riders won British Supersport titles and both are acknowledged as huge natural talents, but neither has delivered the same level of success since stepping up to BSB level and have a lot to prove this year.
I think part of the reason is that Muir’s team still has to prove itself and right now, the really top names the team boss would have had on his wish-list might not want to risk joining the team.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not slating the Hydrex Honda crew. I’ve been privileged to have watched their impressive progress since Muir came back into racing in 2005 after two years on the sidelines and last year was their best-ever with James Ellison scoring podiums on the brand new Blade.
But there’s still that nagging doubt in some people’s mind whether the team can become race winners and real title contenders.
Part of the problems has been operating on a budget that’s left the talented Shanley having to carry several roles within the team since he joined Muir in 2005: team mananger, crew chief to two riders, data man etc.
The arrival of another highly respected crew chief in Pete Jennings will take some of the pressure off him.
Initially, Muir hoped to retain Ellison and chased Gregorio Lavilla’s signature as a second rider with the team switching to Yamahas.
According to Muir, Lavilla was offered enough money to make him the highest paid rider in BSB but turned it down. As did Broc Parkes. And then Ellison switched to GSE Racing. After Muir had lost the Yamaha deal to them.
Muir is astute enough to understand why Ellison wanted to join a title-winning BSB team. – especially as he was desperate to get on a Yamaha.
So then Muir looked elsewhere. Harris, Brendan Roberts and Chas Davies were all in the frame and Harris got the nod, because of his unrivalled passion and enthusiasm for the job - according to Muir.
There is one big caveat : Harris has to meet a certain level of fitness in order to get paid his wages and throughout the year he will undergo tests, carried out by how own personal trainer Kirk Gibbons (the same guy who trains Leon Haslam and top motcrossers Tommy Searle and Billy Mackenzie.
We all know Harris is capable of lapping as fast as anyone out there. With a bit more luck than he had last year, and a new level of fitness, it’s time for him to prove he can win races at the top level.
But there’s the rub: It’s not just winning races. Harris has really got to prove to everyone he can keep his shit together over a season and not let other distractions continue to affect his career.
At the time of signing Harris, Easton wasn’t even considered with Muir aiming to run Harris in BSB and Martin on the roads.
But Easton’s brilliant performance in Macau – and his enthusiasm to run the bike on short circuits convinced Muir to find budget to run him as thier second BSB rider.
Right now, I’d say that was one of the most astute moves Muir has made since becoming a team owner.
Easton is one of the great un-fulfilled talents of the BSB grid. He’s been brilliant in supersport and on the right bike, in the right team, I think he’ll flourish and I’m looking forward to seeing him cause a few big shocks in BSB this year.
Like Muir said, everything is now in place for Hydrex Honda to step up to the next level. They have the staff and the bikes – and no excuses. And like Muir, I truly believe their two unsung riders have the ability to do get the job done.
And when they do, maybe everyone will start believing in Hydrex Honda.