Jonathan Rea: I'm delighted to pledge future to Kawasaki
Three-time champion Jonathan Rea has signed a new contract with Kawasaki to remain in the World Superbike Championship as an official KRT rider for two more years.
The 32-year-old Ballyclare rider, who now resides on the Isle of Man, was thought to have several options for 2019 and beyond, but has elected to remain loyal to both Kawasaki and the World Superbike paddock he has been part of since 2008.
Since joining the Akashi-based manufacturer in late 2014, Rea has secured three consecutive World Championships.
In the Czech Republic at the weekend, the Ulsterman made history with his 60th World Superbike victory (45 of which have been with Kawasaki) and he now leads the current Championship by 65 points just after the halfway mark.
Rea stated: "I'm more than happy to continue in these next two seasons with the Kawasaki Racing Team. Since the end of last season we had already started to talk about continuing our partnership, so it's nice to finalise everything now so we can concentrate on the remaining races of 2018.
"I was welcomed into the Kawasaki family from the moment I arrived at the end of 2014 and since then we have achieved success beyond our wildest dreams. Here is where I want to stay, still living the dream."
KRT team manager Guim Roda said: "We can celebrate that Jonny has decided to stay for two more years with Kawasaki. I'm sure many fans would like to see him running with the top guys in MotoGP, but we can ask guys from MotoGP to come here and see the battle too. The level Rea has now is so high and this will only make the level of other riders and manufacturers in World Superbike increase."
Meanwhile, Andrew Irwin will join his elder brother Glenn in the BeWiser Ducati British Superbike Championship team, starting with round four this weekend at Snetterton.
It follows six-time British Superbike champion Shayne Byrne's accident during the official BSB test at Snetterton last month, which left the Londoner with a number of serious injuries.
Team owner Paul Bird has recruited 23-year-old Andrew from Carrickfergus, who has won at British Supersport level and this year has been contesting the World Supersport Championship with a best finish of 10th at Donington Park last month.
Despite his lack of Superbike experience, Andrew said: "I'm really grateful to be given this opportunity with one of the best teams in the paddock.
"This will be a very steep learning curve, but one that doesn't daunt me as I know with everyone's help it will be made a lot easier, and who better to have on the other side of the garage than my big brother?"
Andrew was scheduled to get his first taste of the Ducati Superbike during a BSB test at Knockhill test yesterday.