Kneen and Millsport finally back on road to success
Ballymoney-based Millsport Racing, famous for their exploits between the hedges with the late great Martin Finnegan, will be back on the roads scene next season after securing the services of Irish and Ulster Superbike champion Dan Kneen to ride a full stable of Suzuki machinery in 2015. The Manxman conquered the Irish national scene at his first attempt this year, under the guidance of John Burrows and the Cookstown B.E Racing team.
But the lure of joining Millsport Racing, who look set to enjoy tangible support from Suzuki GB, was too good to turn down.
The 27-year-old explained: "Once I found out Millsport were going to have a direct Suzuki connect, I knew it would be the right move for me.
"John and the lads at B.E Racing were great to work with and it's always hard to leave a team when you've had success, but joining Millsport Suzuki is the correct decision and I'm looking forward to getting it all started."
Remnants of his Ulster Grand Prix crash in August, where he went down during the opening Supersport encounter with Dean Harrison and Keith Amor, are still apparent.
A limp means a pair of crutches are well within reach, but his recovery plan is going well and he's looking forward to adding some short circuit racing to his calendar next year to help him sharpen up.
"I've always enjoyed both the roads and the circuits," said Kneen who won this year's UGP Superstock race before his crash.
"I have discussed the schedule for next season with team owners James and Patrick Murray and we have decided to take in the Mondello Masters Series as part of our programme," explained Kneen.
The Mondello Park based Adelaide Masters Series is now regarded as Ireland's leading tarmac Superbike championship, and with good prize money and media coverage virtually guaranteed, then it's no brainer.
Team manager Patrick Murray explained: "Dan is a young and very capable racer both on the roads, as he proved last year, and on the short circuits.
"So we have decided to take in the Masters series as the guys at Mondello Park are easy to work with, it's a great series and it gives Dan much needed track time."
Team owner James Murray is equally delighted to be back on the pure road racing scene after a few seasons in the fluffed up world of British championship, using both Yamaha and Ducati machinery.
The affable Ballymoney businessman has shrewdly adopted the Suzuki brand into his Millsport Motorcycles branch alongside the Ducati marque, and feels he can give young Kneen his best chance of a TT win over the next few seasons.
"It's a one year deal with young Dan, but the plan is to work together longer term and take the lad to his first TT win, hopefully on Suzuki machinery," said Murray, whose main business is the hugely successful JMF Fabrications.
Looking ahead to 2015, Murray concluded: "We're not sure just yet the level of support that we will be getting from Suzuki, as that's still to be discussed.
"So for now we are concentrating on Dan, who will do the three main international road races, Macau at the end of the year and hand-picked nationals including the Southern 100. And, who knows, we may just pop up in British championship yet next season," he smiled.
The Millsport Suzuki connection creates further speculation around Moneymore based TAS Racing, who have been linked with BMW for 2015.
In turn, Michael Dunlop - four-time international winner with BMW in 2014 - is now touted to be in contract negotiations with Paul Bird's PBM Kawasaki squad, with rumours suggesting he could ride Bird's PBM MotoGP bike in next year's Senior TT.
The biggest winners may well be the Cookstown Club, who could have three major manufacturers represented at their April season opener just for starters.