The 2009 World Superbike grid continues to take shape after Ten Kate Honda confirmed Carlos Checa, Ryuichi Kiyonari and Jonathan Rea will form their rider line-up next year.
Although the unveiling of the trio comes as no surprise following Checa and Kiyonari's strong maiden season in World Superbikes and Rea's fine efforts in Supersports, it does confirm that they won't expand to a fourth bike as had been suggested.
Rea will replace 2007 Supersport Champion Kenan Sofuoglu in the team, the Turk stepping back to the series in 2009 to partner this year's title leader Andrew Pitt.
The experienced Checa will lead the way again as he continues a successful transition to Superbikes following a lengthy tenure in MotoGP. Although it was rumoured the two-time race winner had been offered a deal to ride the Aspar Kawasaki in MotoGP next year, Checa insists he wanted to utilise his acquired knowledge from this season to put into a title offensive in 2009.
"I am very happy to have everything in place for 2009,” he said. “There has been lots of speculation, but it was clear that the best option for me was to continue with the team and fight for the championship. I now have a great opportunity for next year and, even now with two races to go, there is a chance to fight for second place this season.
“In the last three years, I have changed teams and bikes many times and, of course, I have been learning many new things this year. So, I think the level will definitely improve next season. I am not 20 years old any more and I want to get the benefit of the effort we have put in this season! I like this championship very much – the sporting balance is good and there is space for many manufacturers, teams and riders."
After a slow start to his rookie WSBK season, double BSB Champion Kiyonari secured his place in the team with superb victories at Brands Hatch and Donington Park, results that show he could be a title contender in 2009 now that he has experience of the full calendar.
"I am very happy to be riding for Ten Kate Honda for a second year in the World Superbike championship. This year has been a year of learning new tracks and new tyres but I have already won some races so I am confident of more good results next year and to challenge for the championship. This is my goal and with this great bike and my very professional team, I will work as hard as I can to achieve it."
The big news in the line-up is the arrival of Rea, who confirmed to Crash.net
last week his deal to graduate from Supersport. Currently second in that championship, Rea is thought to have signed a deal with Ten Kate's premier team to race with them for three years.