Alastair Seeley has secured a British championship ride after it was confirmed on Thursday that the Carrick rider has joined Spirit Motorcycles to compete in the Supersport class.
Seeley and team-mate Dean Ellison will ride the British-built, Moto2 inspired machine under an invitational entry and will not be eligible for championship points.
However, with uncertainty over the long-term future of 600cc Supersport machines, the bespoke manufacturer hopes the Spirit GP-Sport R will showcase the possibilities for a Moto2 derived prototype class.
Former British Supersport and Superstock champion Seeley, who had been struggling to put a deal together for 2017 with teams demanding rider budgets of up to £50,000, said he was looking forward to ‘putting the cat amongst the pigeons’ this season.
“I’m really happy to be back in the Supersport class in what is an exciting new project and venture,” he said.
“To be involved with what could be the future of middleweight racing is something I can’t wait to get stuck into. It’s nice to get the call-up for my development skills but also I’m keen to work with an enthusiastic bunch of guys, from my team-mate to mechanics, the manager and partners.
“I’m looking forward to the testing schedule and also the BSB test to see where we are at. Then it’s on to round one at Donington to let the cat amongst the pigeons.”
Seeley’s plans have finally fallen into place, with the 37-year-old already confirmed to be riding for the Gearlink Kawasaki team in the Supersport races at the Vauxhall International North West 200 in May.
He is also set to renew his association with the Moneymore-based TAS Racing team to ride Tyco BMW machinery in the Superbike and Superstock classes at the event, where he became the most successful rider ever in the history of the famous race last year, moving onto 17 victories following a Supersport double.
He finished as the runner-up in the Superstock 1000 Championship in 2015 on the Tyco BMW and made the step up to the Superbike class last season, but was unable to make much of an impact on the RAF Reserves BMW.
The Spirit machine Seeley will race in the Supersport championship is designed and built in the UK and features a 675cc Triumph engine and a Grand Prix inspired fully adjustable chassis, from headstock to swinging arm.
Weighing in at just 140kg, the Spirit GP-Sport R also features state-of-the-art electronics and a host of exotic parts. The team will be backed by title sponsors Quattro Plant.
Tony Scott, MD at Spirit Motorcycles, said: “It would be fair to say that the past three years of development has led us to this moment and it is a relief to be here.
“Our ambition has always been to produce a prototype series which would help young talent learn the craft of setting up a prototype chassis such as this; it is an excellent way for them to gain the skills needed to filter into the GP paddock with confidence and we look forward to showing the BSB visitors just what we have built.”
MCE British Superbike Championship Series Director Stuart Higgs said he would be watching the team’s progress with interest this year given the doubt over the longevity of 600cc Supersport racing.
“There is debate over the future of the middleweight British Championship class, as certain manufacturers have announced that 600cc Supersport machinery will cease to be produced in coming years,” said Higgs.
“We have an obligation to maintain a promotable and accessible class which provides a logical stepping stone in terms of performance. The Spirit project allows us to evaluate in a live and relevant competitive environment a possible future direction. We will be watching with interest.”