Lee Johnston and Ian Hutchinson will ride for Honda Racing in 2018 and compete for the Isle of Man, North West 200 and the Ulster GP.
With the rumours that Hutchinson would be leaving Tyco BMW for the upcoming season and Honda not having the best of times during 2017, the news that 16-time winner Ian Hutchinson has now officially confirmed that he’s to join Honda Racing for 2018 shouldn’t be too much of a surprise.
It’s an interesting – and potentially great – move for Hutchinson who has history with Honda – racing for Padgetts Honda in 2010 and bagging five TT wins – but he doesn’t have experience with the new, CBR1000RR SP2 and both John McGuinness and Guy Martin struggled with the machine during their time with it in 2017.
“I’m really looking forward to getting started with Honda Racing; it’s a new challenge and a fresh start for me. 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.” – Ian Hutchinson
For Lee Johnston it’s arguably an even bigger step and the support and the step up to a fully factory-supported team is a real indication of the talents that many have already acknowledged over previous seasons. Plus he’s already got form with the SP2 during his time as reserve rider for the Honda Endurance Racing team during this year’s Le Mans.
“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! 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!” – Lee Johnston
But what about McGuinness? With Guy Martin not expected to be racing in 2018 (although we’ve been surprised by him on that front before), what will the King of the Mountain have in store for 2018? With retirement always around the corner in recent years for the man from Morcambe , the accidents of 2017 aren’t going to be his last ever outings are they?
We’ve already speculated here at Motofire that something could be happening with a particularly hungry British marque and we reckon that the odds of McGuinness riding a shiny, Norton V4 around the Isle of Man TT course will have just shortened by quite some number.