Ian Hutchinson and Lee Johnston make up the all-new Honda Racing rider line-up for the 2018 road racing season.

Hutchinson famously clinched his historic five-TT wins in a week with the Padgetts Honda squad in 2010 using the previous Fireblade CBR1000RR model and switches to the factory-supported Honda Racing squad from 2018. The 16-time TT winner will be joined by Johnston who has held a previous association with the Louth-based squad as its Le Mans 24-hour reserve rider.

Both Hutchinson and Johnston will take on the North West 200, Isle of Man TT and Ulster GP with Honda Racing in 2018 in the Superbike and Superstock 1000 classes using the new Fireblade.

Hutchinson, who ends his joint association with Tyco BMW and McAMS Yamaha on the roads, is relishing the fresh challenge with Honda and is eager to become familiar with the new Fireblade SP2. The 16-time TT winner is still recovering from a broken femur and removed ankle suffered in his crash at the Isle of Man Senior TT race this year.

“I’m really looking forward to getting started with Honda Racing; it’s a new challenge and a fresh start for me,” Hutchinson said. “I suppose I have quite a bit of history with Honda, ten years ago I rode with this official team and in 2009/2010 I rode with Padgetts Honda, where I scored five-TT wins in a week, so I know the Fireblade pretty well.

“I haven’t ridden the Fireblade SP2 yet and will have to wait until we go testing early next year, but I can’t wait to start making some progress. The Honda team has a lot of experience at the TT and its history speaks for itself with the wins and successes over the years, it’s also nice to see a lot of the team still here who I worked with in the past, so I’m confident that come the New Year we can get started and start aiming to where we want to be.”

Johnston is similarly thrilled by the deal after a couple of tricky campaigns on the roads and his initial feeling with the new Fireblade gives him added encouragement for 2018.

“I am genuinely excited about being with Honda Racing next year, I’m probably the most excited I’ve been in years if I’m honest,” Johnston said. “I have had two tough years and it’s nice to have everything organised and in place early so I have nothing to worry about apart from riding motorbikes. So that for me is the biggest thing and what I wanted more than anything, as I have no outside distractions and I can just concentrate on doing my job.

“I’ve ridden the Fireblade SP2 already at Le Mans, when I was a reserve rider for the Honda Endurance Racing team, so I’ve got a bit of a head start in that respect. I enjoy riding the CBR, the tank fits me well and it isn’t as big as it looks! I just can’t wait now for testing to start in March and just get going with the new programme for the year.”

Honda Racing team manager Jonny Twelvetrees is delighted to secure his 2018 rider line-up for the roads with star rider Hutchinson alongside Johnston after a tough maiden year with the new Fireblade which saw John McGuinness ruled out of the Isle of Man TT due to a crash at the North West 200 coupled with Guy Martin’s indifferent return to road racing.

“I’m really pleased that we’ve been able to sign both Hutchy and Lee for our 2018 roads campaign,” Twelvetrees said. “Hutchy’s record speaks for itself and especially so when he’s been on a Honda. Whilst always being aware of his determination and professionalism, this has been highlighted to me even more so when striking up the deal. I’m looking forward to seeing him on the SP2 at our opening test, he has plenty of past experience on the Fireblade, so I’m sure it won’t take him too long until he’s pushing on and able to feedback what he needs.

“Lee has always impressed me, he joined the Honda Endurance Racing team as a reserve rider for the Le Mans 24-hour and since then we had been watching from a roads perspective. He clearly has a talent on the roads and I am positive with the team we have, the Fireblade SP2 and the plans we have for the season that he can show his full potential. We’re really looking forward to working together and personally I can’t wait for us to be back on the roads.”

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