Parkalgar Honda World Supersport team manager Simon Buckmaster says he is confident of fighting for the World Supersport title in 2009 as the team looks to move on from a difficult 2008 campaign.
Having hoped to challenge for the crown this year, the team was instead hit by the tragic accident at Brands Hatch back in August that claimed the life of British rider Craig Jones, who had firmly established himself as one of the leading stars of the series.
After a sombre weekend at Donington Park, where Jones' side of the Parkalgar garage remained empty, American Josh Hayes came in for the final rounds of the year alongside Miguel Praia – with the Portguese rider returning for 2009.
The new season will see him partnered by Eugene Laverty, and Buckmaster said that he was confident that his line-up would be able to fight for the crown – something Jones' was expected to do before his tragic death.
“My main memory of 2008 will be that of Craig Jones,” Buckmaster reflected in an end of year message. “He was the Parkalgar Honda rider that should have won races and been a World Champion but he was cruelly taken from us while fighting for the victory at Brands Hatch mid-season, just as he was coming to top form and putting together a real claim to the title. We miss you Craig and you will forever be part of our team and circuit.
“Now the team and circuit are looking forward to 2009 and with Eugene Laverty and Miguel Praia as riders we are confident we can win. The team has a year's experience behind it and is stronger than ever. Eugene is a talent that can win and go for the 2009 World Supersport title. That is our only aim and already we are working on the bikes and will be testing in Europe in January.”
Buckmaster also made comment on the current economic situation, which has claimed the Honda Formula One team and seen both Suzuki and Subaru call time on WRC programmes, and said he was hopeful that two-wheeled racing would survive the current crisis unscathed.
“I think racing may undergo a bit of a sea change in 2009 with the credit crunch taking its toll,” he said. “Honda in F1 and Suzuki along with Subaru in WRC are only the first casualties. Thankfully so far bike racing is relatively untouched by troubling news and hopefully the popularity and cost effectiveness of our sport will see it past the tough times.”