Two top local motorcycle road racing teams have announced major signings for the 2014 season.
Tyco Suzuki have confirmed superstar John Hopkins will join their ranks next year, while Carrickfergus ace Alastair Seeley has agreed a deal with Mar-Train Racing.
The signings are major coups for the two Ulster outfits who will be gunning for major success in 2014.
Hopkins – the 2011 British Superbike championship runner up – will be joining the Moneymore-based Tyco Suzuki squad to spearhead their BSB campaign.
The departure of Australian Josh Brookes, who finished third in this year’s series, has opened the door for a return to British racing action for the American Hopkins narrowly lost out on the 2011 title by just 6/1000ths of a second to Tommy Hill in the final race of the season at Brands Hatch.
His 2012 season was destroyed by injury that he sat
“There were a couple of choices to race in MotoGP on a CRT bike and in WSB but BSB wasthe best option for me.” Hopkins explained fromhis Californian home this week.
“I really enjoyed myself when I last raced there and I’ve always liked Suzuki. I’m really excited to be coming back to British Superbike in 2014 and delighted to be joining Tyco Suzuki.”
Tyco boss Philip Neill was equally delighted – and no doubt a little relieved– to be able to replace the departing Brookes with such a big name signing.
“Hopper really was the man we wanted for 2014 and we are excited to announce this agreement,” he smiled.
“John has been a part of the Suzuki family for many years and having him back on a GSX-R1000 next year provides a shot of motivation to everyone. From a Tyco Suzuki point of view, we simply can’t wait to start the new season.”
Meanwhile, diminutive Carrickfergus racer Seeley was pipped at the post by Mar-Train Yamaha mounted Scot Stuart Easton in the British Supersport championship this season, and with Easton moving up to BSB with Paul Bird, Seeley has jumped ship from Gear Link Kawasaki to the Temple-based outfit for next year.
“I raced against the Mar-Train bike all season and I was parked beside the team in the paddock so I had a good look at them and they got a good look at me.” he explained.
“It was a no brainer to choose to go to a good team with good machinery.”
The deal will see the 34-year-old have another go at winning the Supersport series on a R6 Yamaha and he is clear that the championship will be his priority.
“We came close this year but there was no cigar.” he said as he explained his hopes that he will be able to pick up where his 2013 rival Easton left off.
“Stuart and I have similar styles and it would be nice to get going with the same settings.” he smiled.
Mar-Train boss Tim Martin is also focussed on retaining the Supersport title but his signing of Seeley also signals an intensification of his squad’s road racing assault.
“I have wanted to win a North West since day one and now, with Alastair, I have no better man.” Tim said.
Although the team has not yet decided on the machinery they will build for Seeley to race in the Superbike and Superstock races at Portrush, Seeley says he favours the Kawasaki ZX10.
“The Kawasaki has done well in BSB and WSB with Shakey Byrne and Tom Sykes over the last two seasons.” he points out.
“The MSS ZX10 superbike I rode this year was fast but it was built for someone else to race in the BSB. I want a bike built for me from the ground up and it would be better to have a ZX10 Superstock bike.”