Reigning European Superstock 100 champion Michael Ruben Rinaldi has been handed his World Superbike debut by the Racing Ducati Junior Team with a deal to contest the European rounds in 2018.

The Italian rider secured the Superstock 1000 title last year which set up a potential graduation to WSBK but with Chaz Davies and Marco Melandri already signed for 2018 and Barni Ducati opting to re-sign Xavi Fores for the new season Rinaldi was left without a race seat in the premier class.

Having impressed during winter testing at Jerez on his Ducati Superbike debut, Rinaldi will compete at all eight European rounds of the 2018 WSBK championship for the Racing Ducati Junior Team, starting at Jerez on the 13-15 April.

“I'm obviously very happy for this opportunity,” Rinaldi said. “To be able to keep racing with the Racing - Junior Team after two memorable seasons, and to step up to WSBK, with a competitive bike and such a great crew, is a dream come true.

“We will start our season in Aragon, so we'll try to use the extra time available to be even more prepared. The goal is first and foremost to learn as much as possible, and to improve both my riding and my working approach, but clearly we'll also try to show our potential, because we have all the necessary tools to achieve good results.”

Rinaldi and the Racing Ducati Junior squad, working alongside the factory Ducati squad, will both make their WSBK debuts this year and team boss Stefano Cecconi is thrilled to make the move with his young Italian rider off the success of his Superstock 100 title.

“Two years ago when we decided to double our commitment and create the Racing - Junior Team, our main goal was to select young talents and give them a chance to develop as riders,” Cecconi said. “After taking the Superstock 1000 title last year with Michael, the rider's and team's debut in WSBK was the obvious next step to take on this path.”

Cecconi confirmed the Junior Team will not be receiving direct factory support but his squad will take guidance from the factory effort and use its experience of turning the stock version of the Panigale R into a championship winner.

“We can count on the experience gained with the official team in the past three seasons on track with the Panigale R, whose potential is clear,” he said. “For us, it will be a season during which to learn and grow, but we're also confident about our chances to put ourselves in the limelight when the opportunity comes.”



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