Honda Racing has confirmed that the pioneering Red Bull Honda youth development programme will continue in the British Superbike Championship in 2006. It will be the fifth year of Red Bull's involvement in the sport and its third year of partnership with Honda Racing.
The goal of the two companies - to encourage and support future champions - remains firmly intact. And so, Red Bull Honda will retain its two current riders, Jonathan Rea and Eugene Laverty, and focus on the next stage of development for the talented teenagers.
The team has decided that the most effective way to do this is to streamline its structure, which means that it will not participate in the British 125GP Championship next year. The 2005 season was a learning year for Rea and Laverty in the British Superbike and Supersport classes respectively.
Following a successful debut campaign in the world's premier domestic Superbike series, Jonathan Rea will contest a second season of the championship. The 18-year-old will continue to ride a Red Bull Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade and aims to be competitive from the outset.
The Ulster rider proved to be a surprise package in 2005 after becoming the youngest ever to secure pole position in the series and starting two other races from the front row. He also enjoyed five top ten finishes and a further eight points-scoring positions. Rea's aim for 2006 is to once again make people sit up and take note of his potential.
Jonathan Rea: "I'm feeling really good about staying with Red Bull Honda for another year. I'm sure that big things will come out of the relationship. The package that I have been offered for 2006 is fantastic, so I'm trying really hard to make sure that I'm in good shape to do the team justice."
Team-mate Eugene Laverty has also proven his worth to the team on the Red Bull Honda CBR600RR after a promising first season in the ultra-competitive Supersport class. The 19-year-old did justice to British Supersport Champion, Karl Harris, from whom he took on the mantle of Honda Racing's main challenger at the beginning of 2005.
The Toomebridge teenager claimed one pole position and a further three front row starts in his debut season. He also enjoyed one podium finish, another top five placing and six other top ten positions. Laverty finished ninth overall in the championship and at times proved to have the upper hand on several more experienced adversaries.
Eugene Laverty: "It's great to have the support of Red Bull Honda again. This year has been about learning for me, so I've used it to improve my riding, learn the circuits properly and get used to the bike. This means that I'll be more experienced next season, so hopefully I can be a definite contender for the top three. Next year's CBR600RR is slightly different to the one I raced this year and I can't wait to test it over the winter."
Red Bull's Motorsport Manager, Linda Pelham: "When we first decided to invest in the sport in 2001, we were extremely focussed on our goal of developing future champions. Achieving this goal is something that Honda Racing has been helping us to do since we joined forces two years ago and we believe that they will continue to do so as part of our successful partnership.
"Both Jonathan and Eugene have done themselves and the Red Bull Honda team proud this season and they deserve the opportunity to progress further."
Havier Beltran, Team Manager of Red Bull Honda: "I think that the success of Red Bull Honda in the 2005 Superbike and Supersport classes was a surprise to many people. But that is testament to all of the people involved in the team. It's great to be encouraging young talent in the sport and helping the future growth of the championship."