Shaun Muir Racing (SMR) has signed Tom Sykes for the 2019 World Superbike Championship as the squad switches from Aprilia to BMW machinery, understands.

The future of the 2013 World Superbike champion has been uncertain since Kawasaki announced the signing of Leon Haslam in July. But he has found a place in a squad that will have considerable backing from the BMW factory.

Sykes will team up with factory favourite Markus Reiterberger, the winner of this season’s European Superstock 1000 Championship, and it is believed the factory support will be akin to what BMW offered from 2009-’13, when it ran a factory team in the class. 

The move leaves current SMR rider Eugene Laverty without a confirmed place on the 2019 grid.

The Northern Irishman, who has scored two podiums and one pole position since returning from a horrific broken pelvis injury in March, is now seeking a seat that would keep him in the class next year.

SMR has previous experience with BMW, with Englishman Shaun Muir opting for German machinery in 2016, the year the squad stepped up to the World Superbike Championship. Josh Brookes and Karel Abraham were his riders.

But soon into that year, it emerged Muir was vying to secure a deal with Aprilia, the Noale factory keen to make an official return to the class with a revamped RSV-4. Laverty’s signature accompanied news that Lorenzo Salvadori would remain on Italian hardware. 

Results, however, were not as expected. Laverty's injury, sustained at the second round of the season, forced him out of the following three race weekends. He has scored well since, and sits ninth in the championship standings, a place ahead of his team-mate. 

With Aprilia's future in the class unclear, it was rumoured Muir was speaking to other factories about the possibility of switching manufacturers for a third time in four years.  

It appears the chance to front a BMW entry with considerable support from the German factory was enough to convince Muir to make the switch. Sykes has long been linked to the team, and Reiterberger rode the S1000RR during his dominant run to the European Superstock 1000 Championship this year.


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