British Superbike front-runner Johnny Rea says he cannot wait to get out there and prove his mettle next year, when he will line up alongside 2006 champion Ryuichi Kiyonari at the plum Honda-backed HM Plant squad.

The Northern Irishman, still only 19, was chosen for the ride as the reward for a superb sophomore season in the category that saw him outscore the likes of ex-British Superbike champion and MotoGP ace Shakey Byrne and factory Honda star Karl Harris on his way to fourth in the final standings. And he is fired-up to go three places better in 2007.

"This year went really well," he told Crash.net at the International Motorcycle and Scooter Show held at Birmingham's NEC. "The Red Bull Honda team gelled well right from the start, we had a good pre-season test in Spain and came back raring to go.

"We began with a fifth place in Brands Hatch and were never out of the top eight all year. We gathered a bit of momentum with a few podiums here and there and built some good foundations for next year."

Indeed, Rea was the very model of consistency throughout the campaign, and though he never quite made it onto the top step of the podium during the year he did register no fewer than 19 points finishes from 24 rounds. He said he was particularly proud to have seen off the threats of Byrne and Harris.

"Karl and Shakey are both ex-British Superbike or Supersport champions and world class riders," he explained. "It was really good for my confidence to beat them in the championship."

With his sights now set very much on 2007 following an operation to repair an old knee injury that resurfaced after a crash during last month's Race of the Year at Mallory Park, Rea said he could not wait to get started and was relishing the challenge of going up against the reining title-holder, who he said would be the perfect yardstick for him.

"It's going to be mega," he enthused. "To ride for any factory team is an honour, but Honda is the best manufacturer in the world. The only reason I chose to switch teams was so I would receive full factory support.

"Kiyo is a really strong rider and I think I can learn a lot from working alongside him and hopefully progress from that.

"I just have to make the ride my own now, get out there and win races and try to dominate. I have to win the championship next year, there's no doubt about it, and if I can stay healthy and injury-free throughout the year there's no reason why I can't do that."