Jack Kennedy aiming to prove his six appeal in British Superbike Championship
Dublin's Jack Kennedy had a tumultuous debut season in the British Superbike Championship in 2015, but the former British Supersport runner-up is confident he can challenge for a top six spot next season after renewing his deal with Team WD-40.
With a plethora of Ulster-born riders set for the grid in 2016 - including championship contenders Michael Laverty, Glenn Irwin and Alastair Seeley - Kennedy believes he can get amongst them and become the first Southern Irishman to win a BSB race next term.
Recounting his debut year in BSB, the 28-year-old was honest enough to admit that he found it tough.
"It was more than a little bit of an eye-opener at the start of the season," he said.
"The pace was unreal and even to get into the top 20 you had to be inch perfect almost everywhere. On top of that, everyone's level of improvement over a race weekend was crazy, but I did find my feet and really enjoyed it."
Kennedy may have only scored points in nine of the 22 races this season, but what he did achieve on track and his swagger off of it gained him fans - including the array of British Eurosport pundits.
Shrugging off his popularity tag, despite finishing the season in the lower echelons of the top 20, he suggested: "Maybe it was down to the times I was able to ride close to the front of the pack, which was easier than fighting it out for 15th. Or maybe it was just down to the colours of the bike standing out."
Brent Gladwin is the owner at GR Motorsport, the parent company that runs Team WD-40. As a former racer, he saw great potential in the young Irishman, manifest by his decision to keep him for 2016.
Having spent eight seasons in various guises on different brands of Supersport machinery - including two on the World scene - no one would have been surprised if the chirpy Kennedy had made the decision to return to the global scene in the middleweight division.
He did have a couple of other offers for 2016 and was tempted by a return to warmer climates, but is delighted to be staying in BSB. He explained: "It was great to sign a deal so early after the season ended and to be working with the same crew is great.
"I worked with my crew chief Andy Jamison in my British Supersport days and I have great belief in him.
"He is one of the hardest working people in the paddock and I just love his work ethic."
A couple of seventh-placed finishes were the highlight of 2015 for the tattooed Kennedy, but when he did show form, his Superbike potential he set many tongues wagging.
In saying that, going home on crutches wasn't what he envisaged at the penultimate round at Silverstone; he left the circuit with broken bones in his foot, a fractured right ankle and collarbone, not to mention being knocked 'spark out'.
The hardy Dub did fight back to race at Brands Hatch during the final weekend just a fortnight later, but was forced to sit out the final race of three on safety grounds.
After a month at home convalescing and licking his wounds, he's now fully focused on 2016. He said: "As racers we all need a bit of luck and an injury-free season; so with that in mind and the experience we have gleaned from this year, my goal for 2016 has to be to make the top six Showdown.
"This year I was riding a Superbike with no electronics and it was trying to kill me every weekend. Next season I can take that experience and along with Andy (Jamison) I know we can find the consistency to achieve those goals and hopefully a few podiums in the process."