A dominant run to the MotoGP title occupied most of the headlines for Honda in 2011, which is just as well because there was little else to shout about at World Superbike level.

Jonathan Rea's lengthy injury time-out left Honda barely scraping points during the busy mid-season spell, but even before that it was clear the ageing CBR1000RR wasn't a match for the title favourites, even in the hands of the determined Ulsterman.

Fortunately, Honda's decision to give its fly-by-wire system an early debut prompted a remarkable upturn in form on Rea's return and was pivotal in it being able to retain its star rider for another year.

Though his decision to stay raised a few eyebrows, his reasoning makes sense considering the arrival of the much anticipated 2012-specification CBR1000RR. Though more evolution, than revolution, and decked in possibly the blandest livery on the grid, Honda nonetheless has high hopes for its new machine and Rea has been typically quick in pre-season testing too.

Another determining factor in Rea's decision to stay is the presence of Hiroshi Aoyama as his team-mate, the former 250GP champion becoming the latest rider to defect from MotoGP after two solid, if unspectacular seasons at premier level.

Well-liked in the Honda camp, Aoyama's presence in the Ten Kate-run team is expected to attract greater support from Honda itself, the manufacturer having been content to keep its involvement in an official capacity to a relative minimum over the last few years. The fact the team is known as Honda WSBK (with no mention of Ten Kate), can only be perceived as a positive thing...

Once the most popular customer machine on the grid, Honda had no entries beyond its official Castrol-backed bikes in 2011, but will grow to include one more in 2012 with the belated arrival of Pro Ride.

The Italian team has twice been forced to abort its WSBK plans, first with Gregorio Lavilla in 2009 and then Makoto Tamada in 2010, before re-emerging in 2011 as a running partner to the MZ Moto2 team.

For 2012 though, Pro Ride will once again attempt to make it onto the WSBK grid and having made it out for pre-season testing in Australia, it looks as though it will be third-time lucky.

Signing ex-Moto2 rider Raffaele de Rosa, the Italian adds to the rookie contingent in 2012, though his inexperience and the team's relatively small size means he will likely struggle to break out of the mid-field at best this year.