Following on from months of negotiations, Paul Bird Motorsport is pleased to announce that Ulsterman Jeremy McWilliams will ride for the Stobart Honda team in the 2005 British Superbike Championship (BSB).
The two year deal will see the experienced former Moto GP racer join Gary Mason and Michael Laverty in a three man team for the former double BSB champions and sees Cumbrian businessman Bird land a major coup for both his team and the BSB series.
Riding for Honda, Yamaha, Proton and Aprilia, McWilliams, originally from Belfast but now living at Newtownabbey, has spent just over a decade in Grands Prix with over 150 GP starts to his name and is the biggest signing in the recent history of Britain's most popular motorsport series.
40 year old McWilliams, who turned down a number of lucrative offers to stay in Moto GP for 2005, was delighted with the deal;
"BSB is second only to Moto GP in status and I'm thrilled to be racing here this season. I've been wanting to race in BSB for a couple of seasons now but it was a case of waiting for the right ride with the right team and Stobart Honda is the one that fits the bill perfectly. I can't thank Paul enough for hanging on whilst it was all being sorted out and we're both in it for one reason this year, and that is to win the title. We'll do whatever it takes to achieve that" said McWilliams.
Having not raced regularly in the UK in recent years, many of the tracks will be new or will need relearning but it's a challenge that McWilliams is looking forward to: "There are some places I've never seen before and even those tracks I do know have changed so it is going to be interesting. But one of my main strengths in the world championship was my ability to learn them quickly so I don't see that being a problem. In fact I'm relishing the task! The other factor is that I'm delighted to be back and riding for Honda again and I genuinely believe we have got the right package in order to challenge for the crown."
The signing of McWilliams is the final piece in the jigsaw for the four times British Champions who will be sporting new colours and new sponsors as well as reverting back to Honda power after four successful years with Ducati.
"Jeremy was always my number one target and I offered the ride to him in the first place. Of course we were interested in both Shakey Byrne and Gregorio Lavilla as I didn't think we had a chance of signing a rider of Jeremy's calibre and it has taken a lot of time and patience but I'm absolutely thrilled to have secured his services. He is a rider with so much experience and he will bring a new dimension to the team" said Paul Bird.
As part of their policy of bringing new names to the sport, the team has secured the backing of transport giants Eddie Stobart and another company joining the team for the first time is the UK's number one ventilation specialists Vent Axia. The MonsterMob brand has been superseded by 'The Mob' and they remain involved for a fifth year running along with VK Vodka Kick and Fuchs Silkolene Lubricants. The kitted bikes will utilise Dunlop tyres and riders will wear Alpine Stars clothing.
The 13 round Bennett's British Superbike Championship regularly attracts trackside crowds of over 25,000 as well as millions of television viewers and BSB Race Director Stuart Higgs was elated with the news:
"Having a rider of Jeremy's undoubted pedigree will add further depth to the already high quality of the rider line up. We now have a dynamic mix of GP and WSB standard riders alongside BSB regulars and emerging talent, demonstrating that BSB is probably THE most competitive series. I personally can't wait for Brands Hatch in March."
McWilliams started out racing in 1988 before rapidly progressing to British Championship level. He raced a 250cc machine in 1991 and in 1992 until moving on to an Oxford Products Ducati for selected rides in the Supercup Championship. From there, he moved onto the GP scene where he remained until returning to the UK this season.
During his GP career, he amassed a total of 684 points including six rostrums. With victory in the 2001 Dutch TT, he became the first British rider to win a solo Grand Prix race since Ian McConnachie in 1986, a statistic which still remains today.
After testing for his new team, McWilliams will race the Stobart Honda Fireblade at the opening round of the series which takes place at Brands Hatch in Kent on Easter Monday March 28th 2005.