The new Chinese-backed Maxtra 125cc grand prix project has announced Austrian Michael Ranseder as its first signing, ahead of the team's debut in the 2009 world championship.
The 22-year-old won the German championship in 2004 but didn't compete in a full 125cc grand prix season until 2006, when he failed to score a point for the Red Bull KTM Junior Team.
A move to the Ajo Motorsport Derbi team for 2007 brought much better success - Ranseder claiming 73 points and twelfth in the standings - but a 2008 switch to I.C. Team Aprilia had yielded just 22 points by the time Ranseder was injured during free practice for the recent Australian GP.
"I am very excited by the prospect," said Ranseder, who will join the Maxtra test programme directly after the season ending Valencian Grand Prix on October 26.
"The Maxtra is an all-new and technically very interesting design, and there are some big names behind it. I feel lucky to be selected for such a high-level project, and very committed to playing my part in it."
Maxtra racing chief Simon Wei, speaking from the massive Haojue factory base in China, added: "We are very happy to confirm our first rider. This is an important step for Maxtra. The testing programme has been very encouraging, and now Michael will bring more speed and good GP experience to our fledgling team.
"We are very serious about this first-ever fully original Chinese racing machine, and expect Michael will be a great help as we move on to the next level."
"Michael is the first of two riders who will campaign the Maxtra in 2009," confirmed Project leader Garry Taylor. "With his grand prix experience, he will be a valuable addition to our test programme, as we take the Maxtra from a clean sheet of paper towards our goal of being fully competitive.
"We have not yet chosen a team-mate for Michael. Discussions are in progress with several very interesting prospects, but the second position is still open for discussion. The future of some teams is always uncertain at this time of year and so there will be some key riders who have been left waiting on a promise. We want to hear from them."
The innovative 125cc Maxtra has a unique upside-down engine designed and developed by two-stroke racing guru Jan Witteveen. The team will be based at the Harris Performance facility in the UK, although the whole project is owned and financed by Haojue, China's biggest motorcycle company with a production output of over three million machines in 2008.
The two rider Maxtra team will make its historic racing debut in the opening grand prix of the 2009 season, in Qatar.