Andrew Irwin will return to the Bennetts British Superbike championship in 2018 after signing a deal with the Honda Racing squad.
The Ulsterman will be part of an all-new line-up for the Louth-based squad, with the second rider still to be confirmed over the next few weeks.
Irwin made his debut in the superbike class as he took on the tough challenge of replacing six-time champion Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne after his testing crash back in May.
Instantly impressing, Irwin became a frequent podium challenger towards the end of the season, earning the respect of Honda team boss Havier Beltran who made moves to sign up the young gun towards the end of the year.
“Honda has such a pedigree and most of the top riders in the world have ridden for them at some point in their careers,” Irwin said. “To be part of that racing history and heritage really excites me. This year was my first year in Superbike and was a huge learning curve! Towards the end of the season I found my way and felt it was all coming together, so now with Harv and the team I will be aiming for the Showdown, which I believe is a realistic target. We will have a full season and also a test programme, which I didn’t have this year and I was still competitive, so we’ll be aiming for the front and I see no reason why we can’t be up there.”
Both Jason O’Halloran and Dan Linfoot will move on to pastures new for 2019. O’Halloran is expected to move to the McAMS Yamaha team while Dan Linfoot’s future is currently uncertain, although he has been linked with numerous teams including Anvil Hire TAG Yamaha and Team WD40 Kawasaki.
Tom Neave, who made his superbike debut with Honda Racing earlier this year in place of the injured Dan Linfoot, will re-join the team in the Superstock 1000 class.