Hannspree Honda Althea will have an all-new line-up for the 2009 World Supersport Championship after signing Australian Mark Aitchison and Frenchman Matthieu Lagrive.
Althea's best result of the 2008 season was fifth place for Gianluca Nannelli at Valencia. The Italian went on to finish tenth in the championship, while the second Althea seat rotated between Andrea Antonelli, Kevin Coghlan, Tommy Hill (its intended occupant) and Russell Holland.
25-year old Aitchison (pictured) made the step up from the Superstock FIM 1000 Cup to World Supersport this season. Aitchison took a best race finish of sixth at Misano for the Triumph Italia BE1 Racing squad, and finished 14th in the final championship standings
"I am really happy because Honda and Hannspree Althea team believe in me and have given me this wonderful chance," said Aitchison. "It is a great opportunity and I really want to get good results next year. The team was excited about the possibility of me joining them and they just made me feel like I was coming into a great family. To join one of the top teams in the World Supersport paddock and have the opportunity to challenge for a world title with Honda is very exciting."
By contrast, Lagrive is a World Supersport veteran - racing in the 600cc class since 2002, albeit with only one podium and two pole positions to his credit. Both poles came this season with the Intermoto Czech Honda team, for whom Lagrive finished 13th in the standings with a best race result of fourth at Magny Cours.
"I'm very excited about joining my new Honda team in World Supersport," said Lagrive, a multiple Endurance world champion. "Hannspree Honda Althea team it's one of the top teams in the championship and I'm looking forward to the challenge at hand and to work with Honda to produce a winning team."
Both Aitchison and Lagrive will race 'official' 2009-spec CBR600RR motorcycles next season.
"We are proud to have two riders like Mark and Matthieu with us next year," said team manager Salvatore Giorlandino. "They are two excellent riders and we are confident that we signed two strong title challengers for 2009.
"Aitchison is a very promising rider and he has been one of the riders we have followed very closely this year. We believe he's got a long future ahead of him at the highest levels in motorcycle racing.
"Lagrive is a very good Supersport rider he has elevated experience and has proved to be a top rider. We are a motivated with a new and fresh team and we will do everything to ensure that they can achieve great results."
Hill will ride Althea's new WSBK entry in 2009.