BSB: Tom Neave moves to Superbike class as Honda expand to four riders
2021 National Superstock champion Tom Neave will make his full-time Bennetts British Superbike Championship debut with Honda Racing next season.
Neave has been promoted within the team following his exploits in the Superstock class in the last two years, finishing runner-up in 2020 before clinching the crown this year. Neave, and his crew, join Glenn Irwin, Ryo Mizuno, and Takumi Takahashi in BSB next season.
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The Lincolnshire rider moves up as part of the Honda Superbike Challenge Programme, which Mizuno is also a member of. Neave has experience on the Superbike-spec Fireblade, albeit the old model, after replacing the injured Dan Linfoot at Thruxton and Cadwell Park in 2018 - taking a best result of 12th.
"I’m not sure I can sum this up into a short one really but racing in the Superbike series is what I have worked towards since I started on tarmac, but certainly since I have been with Honda the aim was always to get into Superbike," Neave said. "I’ve served my apprenticeship finishing as runner-up in 2020 and this year becoming the Superstock champion, and now it’s time to graduate up to the next level, where the real work starts!
"I have never been so motivated to make it happen and can’t wait to figure it all out and just get testing on the Superbike now, it’s finally become a reality and I couldn’t be happier. Thank you to Honda Racing UK, Harv, Neil and everyone who has stood by, believed and worked with me to make this happen – 2022 I can’t wait!"
Irwin will lead Honda's challenge for a third consecutive year and will be looking to bounce back stronger than ever after undergoing shoulder surgery a few weeks' ago. That shoulder injury hindered Irwin for the majority of the year, however Irwin still managed to qualify for the Showdown.
The Northern Irishman ended his 2021 campaign with a single victory and four further podiums, as well as back-to-back poles at Cadwell Park and Snetterton.
"I’m delighted to sign again with Honda Racing UK for the third consecutive season, I think we’ve had two years of a good foundation and an excellent debut with the Fireblade SP, and despite lots of little challenges we have learnt a lot about the bike," Irwin said. ""I expect good things and especially with the development from this season, what I want and what the team want is to step up and to fight more with the top runners on a consistent basis.
"Having Ryo and Takumi staying with the team is good and I enjoyed working with them this season and the input they had, at times they were starting to show more pace which will only help the team moving forward. Tom stepping up is fantastic and a teammate I’ve been wanting, he’s young, he’s hungry, very dedicated and will certainly keep me on my toes! It does no harm to have a teammate like that."
Mizuno and Takahashi will be hoping to take a step forward now that they've had a year of experience on the British circuits. 2021 proved to be a tough campaign for both men as they looked to adapt to BSB, however there were some positive results towards the end of the year.
Mizuno secured a best result of 12th and finished in the points on five occasions. Meanwhile, Takahashi, secured a best result of 13th and finished inside the points four times in his debut campaign.
"I’m really pleased to see Tom move up the ranks into BSB for the 2022 season, it’s been a pleasure working with him in the Superstock class where we’ve watched him grow from his debut with the team, through to becoming the 2021 champion," Honda Racing UK team manager Havier Beltran added. "It’s always great when you can support and nurture young talent into the next step of their career and it’s going to be an exciting season for him.
"I’m pleased Glenn is continuing with us, we know he has the pace to fight at the front which he has shown in the last two seasons with the team, it’s just been bad luck that has hampered his progress as well as injury this season, but I am confident a fit Glenn can be a contender for the title.
"I’m also delighted to have Ryo and Takumi back with us for next year, they played a vital role for the team this season testing and developing new components and now with more track knowledge, I think we’ll see them further up the grid and fighting for the top-ten."
Next season, which gets underway at Silverstone on April 15-17, will be the first time that Honda have fielded four riders on the BSB grid.