Isle of Man star Conor Cummins has opted to join William Dunlop at Milwaukee Yamaha for 2013 as he bids to put his road racing career back on track.
News Letter Sport understands that Cummins has been swayed by a deal to join Shaun Muir’s British championship outfit, dashing SMT Honda owner Robin Croft’s hopes of securing his signature next year.
The Ramsey rider suffered a setback this year after he was ruled out of the Isle of Man TT races due to a hand injury sustained at the North West 200, when he was taken out by Gary Johnson.
He returned to action for Northern Ireland’s Tyco Suzuki team at the Southern 100 in July, finishing on the rostrum five times before competing at the Armoy road races in preparation for the Ulster Grand Prix at Dundrod.
The 26-year-old was involved in a life-threatening accident during the Senior TT in 2010 when he crashed out at high-speed at the Verandah on the Mountain while challenging for the lead of the race on the McAdoo Kawasaki.
Cummins has faced an uphill struggle to recapture the same form and a pivotal season looms in 2013, when he will ride an array of Yamaha machinery for Muir at the North West 200, Isle of Man TT and Ulster Grand Prix.
He completes the roads line-up for Muir along with Dunlop, who was confirmed in the team in November following his switch from Wilson Craig’s Honda outfit.
SMT Honda boss Croft is now on the lookout for another rider following Cummins’ decision to take the Yamaha route.
However Croft, who ran Michael Rutter and John McGuinness on his Fireblades at last month’s Macau Grand Prix, has few options available, with most of the frontrunners already snapped up for 2013.
Lincolnshire’s Gary Johnson is seemingly the only likely candidate on paper capable of challenging for the results Croft craves at the big international meetings.
The SMT Honda owner told the News Letter: “I want a rider who can challenge at the front and the only one who seems to be left is Gary Johnson, as most of the other lads have been lured by factory teams.
“But Gary seems to want to run his own effort next year and my options seem limited.
“But you never know what might happen in a few weeks and riders are obviously aware that I need someone on my bikes, so we’ll just wait and see what happens over the next few weeks.”