The 2011 British Superbike Championship may be five months from getting underway at Brands Hatch on April 25th, but the grid for the new season is already beginning to take shape.
Key announcements have seen riders partake in some 'musical chairs', while even a couple of the teams will take on new machinery for the 2011 season.
Perhaps the most enticing line-up on the grid is reigning champion Ryuichi Kiyonari being joined by Shane Byrne at HM Plant Honda, the former title winner returning to the domestic scene after two years on the world stage.
He takes the place of 2010 runner-up Josh Brookes, who has made the surprise decision to switch to Relentless by TAS, the Australian looking to take advantage of the team's new 'manufacturer' status within the Suzuki company. His team-mate is yet to be decided, but Ian Lowry and Dan Linfoot have been mooted.
It's all change at Shaun Muir Racing as they ditch Honda for Yamaha and sign Tommy Hill and Michael Laverty, the Swan-branded team bidding to repeat GSE Racing's dominance with the R1 during the 2009 season.
Buildbase (Hawk Racing) are currently the only other team to confirm its full line-up, with John Laverty remaining and being joined, in an Evo capacity, by Barry Burrell. However, more significantly for the team will switch from Kawasaki to BMW, marking the first time the manufacturer has entered the full BSB championship class.
Meanwhile, Tyco Honda (formerly Quay Garage) are retaining Tommy Bridewell and looking to add one more – possibly Gary Mason -, while Stuart Easton will ride the new Kawasaki ZX-10R on his return to MSS Colchester. Following his guest outings towards the end of the year, Motorpoint Yamaha have confirmed Loris Baz for 2011, while Splitlath Motorsport announced it will graduate to the championship class next season with Hudson Kennaugh, though it hasn't revealed its choice of bike as yet.
Naturally rumours are swirling around the paddock, most notably Crescent, which is being heavily linked to former MotoGP rider John Hopkins. However, there remain several names still unconfirmed for 2011, including Chris Walker, Simon Andrews and even Michael Rutter, though he is tipped to stick with Ridersmotorcycles.com Ducati.
Confirmed 2011 BSB grid:
HM Plant Honda
Barry Burrell (E)
MSS Colchester Kawasaki
Italics indicate rumour only and not confirmed