Tarran Mackenzie will progress from the Bennetts British Superbike Championship (BSB) to the international stage for next season after being confirmed to join Honda for its revived 2023 WorldSSP Championship project.
BSB Champion in 2021 with McAMS Yamaha, Mackenzie will step down to the intermediate class but progress to the World Championship next season as part of Honda’s new MIE MS Racing effort aboard a Honda CBR600RR-R.
It will mark Mackenzie’s first Supersport campaign since sweeping to the British Supersport Championship title in 2017.
The Scot - son of three-time BSB champion Niall Mackenzie - was strongly tipped to switch to WorldSBK in the wake of his title win in 2021, only for advanced negotiations with Team Go Eleven to fall through after the Italian team nixed plans to switch from Ducati to Yamaha machinery.
While his BSB title defence hampered by two serious off-season injuries before a leg break prematurely ended his campaign at the start of the Title Showdown, Mackenzie was still linked with a 2023 WorldSBK at Motoxracing Yamaha.
However, after talks failed to come to fruition, the spot was assumed by his BSB title successor Bradley Ray.
Why is Tarran Mackenzie in WorldSSP rather than WorldSBK?
This announcement also confirms a surprise - albeit low key - return to WorldSSP for Honda, the most successful manufacturer in the series’ history alongside Yamaha with ten titles to its name.
Even so, Honda has not been represented on the WorldSSP grid since 2020, while the firm’s factory involvement was last evidenced in 2016.
A Honda spokesperson confirmed to BikeSocial that the MIE MS Racing squad will operate with backing from the manufacturer, most likely in the same manner as MIE Racing effort headed up by Midori Moriwaki, daughter of Moriwaki Engineering founder Mamoru Moriwaki.
The Czech-based team also competes in WorldSBK as the official satellite arm of the full factory HRC Honda Racing, next year with ex-MotoGP rider Hafizh Syharin and MotoE race winner Eric Granado.
With this in mind, it would suggest Mackenzie - as a high-calibre, BSB title-winning rider - has been placed in WorldSSP as a way of grooming him for a potential switch to WorldSBK in 2024 with HRC Honda run by another BSB champion, Leon Camier.
Interestingly, Honda’s choice of machinery is the Honda CBR600RR, a model available in Asia and the USA - where there are no WorldSSP races - but is not for sale in Europe due to strict emissions regulations.
Indeed, Honda’s form in WorldSSP declined upon switching from the outgoing CBR600RR in favour of the less powerful CBR650RR, a prelude to it slipping off the grid entirely in the face of newer opposition.
However, following a change of regulation in the class to allow twin-cylinder entries (Ducati) and larger triples (Triumph, MV Agusta), Honda is returning with a four-cylinder model better equipped to compete with Japanese rivals Yamaha and Kawasaki.
This would suggest Honda is working on either adapting the CBR600RR for sale in Europe once more, or is working on a replacement, potentially a sportsbike model built on its new 750cc twin-cylinder platform.
John McPhee set for join Mackenzie in WorldSSP
Mackenzie isn’t the only high-profile Brit slated to compete in WorldSSP next year with Moto3 race winner John McPhee set to make the move with the factory-backed Puccetti Kawasaki Racing Team.
Both riders will be looking to follow in the wheeltracks of other successful Brits in WorldSSP, among them Sam Lowes, Chaz Davies and Cal Crutchlow, title winners in 2013, 2011 and 2009 respectively.