Rea is replacing Michael Rutter as the third rider for Honda Racing after the current British Superbike Championship leader was withdrawn due to injury. The HM Plant Honda Racing rider had been scheduled to campaign the HRC factory-backed machine at the event before an accident at Snetterton left him with a broken collarbone.
The 32-year-old is recovering well from the injury but does not want to risk jeopardising his title chances by racing before the next round of the Superbike championship at Silverstone in August.
It is an ideal opportunity for Ulsterman Rea to gain more experience aboard the CBR1000RR Fireblade. The 18-year-old has already displayed his potential as a future champion by finishing in the top ten of the ultra-competitive British Superbike Championship and becoming the youngest ever rider in the series to secure pole position.
The event also provides extra testing time for Honda-Racing.co.uk’s Karl Harris, who has suffered a recent run of misfortune including broken ribs and problems with machine set-up. The Yorkshireman made his debut on the Fireblade at last year’s Superbike Grand National and finished on the podium, so he is hopeful of a strong, confidence-boosting result.
However, Steve Plater may prove difficult to beat. He is no stranger to the Dunlop/BLD-backed machine since he rode it in this year’s North West 200 to great effect. Lincolnshire-based Plater finished second overall in the first Superbike race and put in some convincing challenges for the lead.
“We’re confident that with such a strong line-up, the team is capable of some podium finishes at Castle Combe, or maybe even a double victory,” said Honda-Racing.co.uk and Red Bull Honda team manager Havier Beltran. “Jonathan Rea has showed fantastic progress with Red Bull Honda this season, so we’re pleased to be able to offer him another opportunity to progress his skills on the track.
“I think that Karl and Steve will also be strong and of course the Honda-Racing.co.uk team has the benefit of set-up data from last year’s event. The 2004 Superbike Grand National was a well-organised and enjoyable event, so we’re happy for Honda Racing to be supporting it again this year.”