Franco Bourne will make his British Superbike Championship [BSB] debut at Snetterton this weekend after being called up by Honda Racing UK to replace the injured Andrew Irwin.
Irwin is still recovering from injuries sustained in an accident during testing at Knockhill just over a month ago, the four-time BSB race winner having already been forced to skip Round 4 of the season at the same Scottish venue.
It's a recovery that will put him out of action for this weekend's fifth round in Norfolk too, prompting Honda Racing UK to turn to Bourne, who will make his BSB debut at Snetterton.
Considered one of the UK's most exciting new talents, the 19-year old won the 2020 British Talent Cup and is currently third overall in the National Superstock standings with one win to his name in what is his first season in the series.
“I hope that Andrew is OK, I wish him all the best and a speedy recovery," Bourne, who has been racing the Marvel HCL Honda in SSTK, said. "I have to say when this chance came about I was obviously disappointed with what had happened to Andrew, but I was extremely happy to take the opportunity to jump onto such a good bike with a team as established as Honda Racing.
“I’ve known Harv [Beltran] for over ten years, since my first introduction to riding on tarmac through the Bikewise initiative, and I want to thank him for giving me this fantastic opportunity.
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“I came onto the Honda Fireblade in Superstock off the back of riding a bike that I really struggled with, so the adaptation has been great. I gelled with it as a bike immediately even though everything was so new, the chassis, the brakes, the power and the slick tyres. But it’s a bike that I adapted to very quickly. I think this will stand me in good stead with racing the Superbike.
Set to get a short test on the full-BSB spec Fireblade at Cadwell Park on Thursday in readiness for his BSB debut, Bourne will join Tom Neave in the factory squad this weekend.
“Firstly, I want to wish Andrew a continued speedy recovery and we look forward to welcoming his return to racing in due course when he is fully fit and ready to race," said Honda Racing UK team manager Beltran.
"In his short absence, it gives me great pleasure to welcome Franco into the team. I have kept an eye on Franco for many years and I have been impressed by his natural talent since our first introduction back in 2012 through the Bikewise initiative.
"Watching his progression year after year has been fantastic to witness and I am excited to see what he can achieve riding our Superbike.