MSS Discovery Kawasaki will concentrate its efforts exclusively on the British Superbike Championship this season - and has promoted 2007 Supersport rider Stuart Easton to ride ZX-10R machinery alongside new signing Billy McConnell.
After a tough baptism in the Superbike class with Michael Rutter in 2007, MSS - a regular BSS frontrunner - will expand to a two-rider BSB team in 2008 and end its Supersport effort.
"For 2008 we intend to build upon our work from this year," said team owner Nick Morgan. "It was a tough baptism of fire in the British Superbike class for us all, but we've learned so much and we're going to take that forward next year. We have decided to streamline our operation to running in the Superbike class only as we feel this doesn't dilute our effort and shows our sponsors that we're committed to the
premier class in the UK.
"We're very excited, as we've got two very hungry, young, but very experienced riders in Stuart and Billy and an awesome new bike from Kawasaki, which we're already working on. Stuart impressed us last year on the Superbike, so we really wanted to give him a proper chance on the big bike this year. We were all gutted when he injured himself testing a Kawasaki France Superbike in August, but we're pleased to see he's almost fully recovered and revved up for next season.
"With Billy we've all seen him grow and mature since he took the Virgin R6 Cup back in 2005. He didn't disgrace himself on the Superbike in 2006 but has really come on in Supersport last year, so I feel he's ready to make the return to the top class with us and Kawasaki," Morgan added.
Despite a serious heel injury, Easton, the 2002 British Supersport champion, still finished tenth in the 2007 series - and also made several BSB outings after Rutter was injured, scoring eight premier-class points.
"It's nice to be sorted already for 2008. Sometimes as a rider, things still aren't 100% at this time of year, so it's great to have everything set for the season ahead," said the 23-year-old Scot. "My broken heel is almost there now, I'd say I'm around 95% fit. I've had three pins, a big plate and a couple of screws in the heel but I'm going to make a 100% recovery. I'll just have some metalwork in my foot, that's all! I'm very pleased to be staying with the team and happy that they're concentrating 100% on the Superbike class. I'm hoping I can really give the premier class my all in 2008. It's going to be good to work in the same garage as Billy. He's a real class act and I'm sure we will work well together."
McConnell, the 2005 Virgin R6 Cup champion, joins Kawasaki after spending the last two years on Virgin Yamaha machinery. The 21-year-old finished fourth in the 2007 BSS Championship, with two race wins.
"It's always been my intention to return to the British Superbike class and take on some of the best riders in the world, as it really is an international grid!" said Billy. "I've been given this opportunity with Nick and Kawasaki and I'm going to take it and do my very best. We've got a new bike which we're all very excited about and I know the team want to make a step up in performance from last year, as I know I can do too with my riding. I've got an experienced team-mate and ex-British champion in the garage alongside me, so we've got all the tools we need. I can't wait to get started!"
"After their rookie year in BSB, we are delighted to see MSS Discovery Kawasaki not only commit to a two rider Superbike team, but also to invest in two young, promising and entertaining riders," added Martin Lambert, marketing manager of Kawasaki Motors UK Ltd. "As the official Kawasaki Motors UK entry in the 2008 Championship, we believe that Stuart and Billy will do a fantastic job representing us to the thousands of Kawasaki fans all over the UK and add a further degree of skill, youth and excitement to one of the world's most competitive racing championships."
Rutter and MSS finished 12th in the 2007 British Superbike Championship.