Jon Kirkham says he will return to the British Superbike Championship in 2009 as a much better rider as he continues his preparations for the new season with Jentin Racing.
Kirkham has spent two seasons racing in the British Superstock Championship, finishing as the runner-up last year, but will mark his return to the series in 2009 with a ride on a new Yamaha R1 prepared by Bernie Toleman's team.
After a troubled time at Superbike level in the past, Kirkham is nonetheless confident that his time in the support categories has shaped him in a better rider than ever. It means he has an eye on the top five and possibly even a podium this year.
“I think I have improved generally as a rider, in that I can find the limits of the bike,” he told Crash.net
. “I can now get the best out of the tyres and my racing skills have improved through being at the front in two championships. I feel I have improved all round since I was last here, so that should stand me in better stead this year.
With the R1 also proving a popular choice for GSE Racing and Rob Mac Racing, Kirkham cannot wait to get a chance to sample the machine ahead of the new season.
“I am really pleased to have signed for Jentin. Myself and Jentin have preformed together before and I am good friends with the team. Obviously, with the new Yamaha making the debut that it did during World Superbikes in Australia, I can't wait for the start of the new season.
“It is going to an awesome bike to ride. It is a lot smoother out of the corners, apparently, and Ben Spies has proved the formula works well on track.”
Although his fine performance for Rob Mac Racing during the final round of the 2008 BSB season helped put him at the forefront of the rider changes through the off-season, Kirkham believes his reputation should have been assured by his second place in Superstocks and also his Yamaha R1 Cup title.
“I was hoping that I had been able to prove myself before that race,” he added. “I wasn't actually that happy with my performance at Brands Hatch, because I wanted to be in the top five, but I was eighth and ninth.
“It was good given I had only just jumped on the bike, but eighth and ninth isn't where I want to be. On the one hand I was happy, but the results just didn't feel right.”
Kirkham will travel to Spain to test the new Yamaha R1 in the next couple of weeks.