Colin Appleyard Racing have signed highly rated rising star Kieran Clarke to ride a Yamaha R1 in the 2004 British Superbike championship.

Despite only making his road racing debut in mid 2001, eighteen-year-old Clarke took three victories in this year's highly competitive Virgin Mobile R6 Cup, finishing the season in third overall.

"This is fantastic! Firstly I have to thank all my sponsors and supporters who have helped me get this far," beamed Kieran. "This is a big chance for me and I intend to make the most of it.

"I've been racing competitively since I was seven and although the techniques in Motocross are very different, the race craft is the same so I actually feel that I have a lot of experience to draw from," he explained. "My aim is simple, I need to learn and learn fast. Having an experienced team around me is just what I need. I can't wait to start testing!"

Clarke's performances this year caught the eye of R6 Cup organiser Rob McElnea - the former GP racer who runs the Virgin Mobile BSB team. McElnea will give R6 Cup champion Tommy Hill his SBK break in 2004, but Clarke's end of season run meant he was also keen to see him on a Yamaha Superbike.

"I'm really pleased that we could put this deal together," said McElnea. "Kieran has already proved himself in the Virgin Mobile R6 cup and Colin's team will be the perfect opportunity for Kieran to get to grips with a full blown Superbike."

"Kieran fits the mould perfectly as the type of rider we are focusing on," added team owner Appleyard. "He is undoubtedly talented but, as importantly, he has proved to be a real hard charger and learns very quickly. With the direct support from the Virgin Mobile team we are optimistic that we can help Kieran make the most of this big step."

Colin Appleyard Racing also revealed they are in discussions with other up-and-coming stars and will make an announcement on the full team line up in the next few weeks. The team ran Jon Kirkham (pictured) in 2003.