Honda Racing hosted a Press Conference Saturday evening at round 13 of the eni Superbike World Championship at Portimao in Portugal, where they revealed their plans for the series in 2013.
As expected, Brit Leon Haslam was confirmed as the second rider on next season’s Ten Kate Superbike Team, even though he was unable to attend the meeting, possibly due to his current commitment with the works BMW Motorrad Superbike squad.
Possibly the biggest news from Honda’s point of view was the addition of a new title sponsor for both the Superbike and World Supersports squads, the Italian snack firm Pata joining the Dutch-based squad now called Honda Pata Superbike.
However the surprise announcement was the confirmation of Jonathan Rea s as lead rider for the Superbike program again next season. 2012 Suzuka eight hour International Endurance co-victor Rea has been doing double duty of late, handling his regular Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR in Superbike while filling in for injured World Champ Casey Stoner on the Repsol Honda RC212V in MotoGP.
Many experts figured that if Rea’s “try out” efforts on the MotoGP bike this fall were successful, he might move to a satellite Honda squad in that series next season. The announcement that Rea wills stay with the Superbike series is viewed as confirmation from Honda that they are now placing additional emphasis on the street bike-based World classes.
Rea might have Grand Prix ambitions, but he has stated that there is no immediate opportunity for him in MotoGP. As well, Honda confirmed that the Pata support will allow them to increase their testing and development efforts involving electronics and suspension for the long-running CBR1000RR platform. The race platform currently utilizes fly-by-wire throttle control, a development not yet available on the production version.
Rea confirmed that he was signed for 2013 only, his next season rumored to be at a seriously increased rate of pay.
“It will be great to have Leon on the team,” stated Rea, referring to his 2013 team-mate on board the Honda Pata Superbikes. “Now both sides of the garage will be strong. This helps rekindle my motivation, it lights a fire for me heading into 2013.”
Rea wouldn’t discuss his plans for 2014, when Honda is rumored to be launching a 1000cc v-four powered sports bike platform. Questions including the alleged new design were artfully deflected by all involved. Honda has a long tradition of v configuration power plants, although only Aprilia currently field a v-four in Superbike.
Honda also confirmed the rider line-up for their World Super Sport class entry on the expected-to-be-revised 2013 CBR600RR model. Current Pata Ducati Superbike teamster Lorenzo Zanetti will move to the 600cc division, joined by current Euro Superstock class front runner Michael Van der Mark of the Netherlands. Van der Mark, riding with an injured shoulder, was fastest in Superstock qualifying this afternoon for the EAB Ten Kate Junior Team Honda.