Honda Racing (UK), which has run in HM Plant colours in recent seasons, has announced an all-new line-up of Michael Laverty and Jon Kirkham for the 2012 British Superbike season.
The pair will replace former champions Shane Byrne (who has moved to PBM Kawasaki) and Ryuichi Kiyonari (also previously announced as leaving the team).
Laverty secured three wins and a further five podium finishes on his way to fourth in the 2011 standings for Swan Yamaha.
“It is an exciting prospect for me to be joining Honda for 2012," said Laverty, who was team-mate to title winner Tommy Hill this year. "It was unexpected and it is always a difficult decision to move teams, especially as we had such a good season this year. I was fortunate to have options and I have gone from one championship winning team to another; everyone knows that Honda have the history in BSB and we are really looking forward now to next season.
"I think the change with the rules has played a part in my decision to join Honda. You can see from Evo this season that the Honda chassis and engine was so strong and delivers useable power which will be so important next year. Next season for sure is going to be interesting and I think we start in a great position. The calibre of Honda and the Fireblade is high and we know we have big potential to fight for the title.”
Kirkham arrives after being team-mate to title runner-up John Hopkins at Samsung Crescent Suzuki, with whom he took his first BSB win this year.
"It is absolutely fantastic for me to be joining the official Honda team as they are well established and the most successful team in the BSB paddock," said Kirkham, who was seventh in the 2011 championship. "I really do believe they will have the package to beat with the new technical regulations as you could see how strong the Honda Fireblade was in the Evo championship last season, and the new for 2012 'Blade looks set to be even stronger.
"2011 was an up and down season for me so next year I just want to concentrate on my riding and getting the Honda up the front where we want and need to be. I want to be consistently 'up there'. This season I have proved I can be, so I now need to do that every race and with the Honda team I believe that is totally possible. I have my own expectations; I am sure everyone does, but I definitely want to exceed them next year. I have never been so excited about a season as I am about 2012 and I just want to get started now.”
In addition, Gary Johnson and the returning Jason O'Halloran will race for Honda UK in the Superstock class.
Team Manager Havier Beltran said, “We are very happy to announce these four riders who bring a great mix of different talents and personalities to the team. All four have great natural racing ability and proven credentials, but all of them also very much have the potential to go even further and have things they want to prove in their respective championships.
"With this combination, coupled with the new regulations and the new 2012 CBR1000RR Fireblade, we are injecting some great new energy into our racing operation and we will continue to be a force to be reckoned with next season.”