Jonathan Rea has confirmed he will graduate to the World Superbike Championship in 2009 with 2007 title winners Ten Kate Honda.
Rea has been riding with the team's Supersport outfit this season after switching from the British Superbike Championship, but while it was always expected he would step up to the world stage next year, the deal was only rubber-stamped over the Vallelunga weekend.
Penning a three-year contract, the Northern Irishman was delighted to be returning to Superbike machinery in 2009, not least because he will be doing it with the team that won last year's title with James Toseland and has scored five victories this season too.
"The deal has been signed since Saturday night," he told Crash.net
. "I had signed for a year of Supersport and then two years of Superbike and now it has been extended for one more year.
"I'll be getting back to what I know after a long time in the British championship, but this will be a big challenge to me. To do it with a team with the experience as Ten Kate, it is only going to make life a lot easier. They are a good team, so I am looking forward to the new challenge."
Although Rea is keen not to make too many predictions, he is personally striving to be scoring regular podiums by the end of the season.
"I don't like to talk about results, but I expect to do a good job for the team. I want to be regularly on the podium in the second half of the year and maybe win a race as well, but I don't expect that. That is our aim."
While it was envisaged that Rea would spend this season learning the circuits on the calendar before moving up with the factory-backed Honda team, he has nonetheless found himself in the midst of the Supersport title battle following his third victory of the season last weekend at Vallelunga.
Indeed, despite the speculation surrounding his future, Rea insists he is merely concentrating on that for the moment.
"I am fully concentrated on what we have to do for the rest of the season," he added. "Andrew made a mistake in Vallelunga and that only helps my chances. Hopefully we can take the fight to him."
Despite rumours of an expanded effort in 2009, Ten Kate Honda is expected to retain a three rider line-up, with Rea joining current riders Carlos Checa and former BSB team-mate Ryuichi Kiyonari. Kenan Sofuoglu is expected to return to the Supersport series he won in 2007.