BSB: Who will join Ray at Buildbase Suzuki?
The 2019 Bennetts British Superbike grid is close to completion, with just two names missing from the provisional entry list announced last month.
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So far, the grid features 30 entries from 21 teams ahead of a massive year for the series, which sees a huge shake-up with various names both leaving and joining the series and most other riders switching teams for the season ahead.
The biggest seat left is that alongside 2018-revelation Bradley Ray in the factory-backed Buildbase Suzuki squad.
Who will join the young gun in the Hawk Racing-run effort has been the subject of much debate over the winter months, but MCN understands an announcement could be due in the next few weeks.
Hawk bosses Steve and Stuart Hicken have done well to keep their second rider under wraps, but several names have been linked to the seat.
MCN has been told Richard Cooper, who rode alongside Ray in the squad last year and won the final race of the season at Brands Hatch, is likely to remain with Hawk although it’s thought he could be returning to the Superstock 1000 class with the Mallory Park-based team.
Billy McConnell, who was in the frame for the superbike ride after challenging for the 2018 Superstock title with Hawk, will switch to the OMG Racing squad for another superstock title tilt.
Smart money at present seems to be on 2015 British Supersport champ Luke Stapleford joining Ray in the superbike class as he returns after three seasons on the world stage.
However, a number of other riders are currently without deals for the upcoming season and could prove appealing for the squad, including the likes of Gino Rea, who recently split with the OMG Racing team despite signing a deal for 2019.
Recent rumours have placed WSB-exile Loris Baz alongside Ray, but, speaking to MCN, team boss Steve Hicken vehemently denied this and reminded us how things turned out the last time his team hired a Frenchman from the World Championship…
Our sources claim Baz is in talks for an eleventh-hour deal to remain on the WSB grid, although who it could be with is far from clear…
Whoever joins Ray in the Buildbase team next year will have their work cut out as BSB faces its biggest shake-up in a decade with a whole host of new faces determined to make a name for themselves as series front-runners.
You can see the most up to date version of the Bennetts BSB grid here.