Posted: 18 Dec 2013
Despite winning the 2013 British Superbike Championship with Alex Lowes, Honda Racing UK has announced they will be taking a year out of the series next season after the withdrawal of title sponsor Samsung. We caught up with Honda Racing boss, Neil Tuxworth for a chat about the reasons behind the decision, the events in the lead up to it and the future.
Tuxworth managed the Honda BSB effort until becoming the boss of Honda Racing UK, remaining heavily involved with the team in his new role.
“We're really sorry not to be in BSB for 2014 as we really value the series. The decision came after two things really.” Tuxworth told Bike Social in an exclusive interview this evening.
“The first was even though we'd won the championship Samsung decided very late in the day that they didn't want to carry on next year. This left it a little bit late for us to get another title sponsor in place. The second thing that lead to this decision was the rider situation.”
Honda bosses had hoped they’d be able to keep hold of champion Alex Lowes, although the Lincolnshire youngster opted for a move to World Superbikes with Crescent Suzuki. With many other top BSB riders signed up for 2014, this left Honda in a difficult situation.
“We knew Alex was going and we had spoken to a number of riders but it was quite difficult to finalise things without having all the finances in place. Therefore we set ourselves a deadline for the decision and made it.”
“We don't want to be circulating in tenth place and while we don't necessarily want a rider who can win we do want a rider who has podium potential and we didn't feel there was a rider of that calibre available.”
New rumours of who Honda were looking to sign began to emerge each week, with a strong suggestion the team could be looking to bring back 2009 champion Leon Camier.
“Leon Camier was very interested but he just wanted us to wait forever more. We're not going to sit about waiting for one rider, I don't care who he is. If he turned around tomorrow and said he would ride for us we'd say sorry, the deal's off.”
“We have made our decision, it wouldn't matter if Valentino Rossi walked in the door tomorrow and offered to ride for nothing, the deal is still off. We won't be going back on it; once Honda has made a decision that's it. Mechanics have been laid off, others have been transferred to other jobs and have signed contracts. Nothing will change this decision now.”
When asked who he’d have liked to see on the grid with Honda in 2014, Tuxworth didn’t shy away from an answer with his first choice having been to retain Lowes.
“We'd have liked to have kept Alex Lowes on board for next year but he obviously decided to go down a different route in the World Championship and I can't blame him for that. If we'd have kept Alex we'd have put Jason O'Halloran alongside him to give him a year learning to ride the superbike. It'd be unfair on Jason to bring him in as the main superbike rider next year with all the pressure on him because of the level of results expected from the top rider.”
Since the announcement of Honda’s withdrawal from BSB there has been many a rumour the team would run a bike in the Supersport or Superstock championship. “We've sold all our supersport bikes so we won't be running in that series next year” commented Tuxworth. “We will however be running in Superstock as we've got a new Fireblade next year. It's the first year ever in the history of the Fireblade that Honda has released an SP version of the Fireblade.”
“We'll be running three riders, two through HME (Honda Europe) who will be the French endurance riders and one through Honda UK. We've offered the HUK ride to Jason but he hasn't made his mind up yet as like all riders, he wants to be in Superbike.”
Honda has made it clear, however, that the withdrawal will be temporary with the squad planning a return in 2015.
“The plan is to come back with a two rider team in 2015 with no teams in Supersport or Superstock and full concentration on Superbike.”
“We're still running a development programme in 2014 and will probably do two or three wildcard rides to develop the Superbike. We've kept Alex Lowes' chief mechanic on to do this, something we wouldn't do if we didn't intend on coming back. I think we'll do three wildcard meetings but later in the year, certainly after the TT. In terms of a rider, we may well run whoever we've got in Superstock as all other riders will have commitments.”