Red Bull Honda is hedging its bets with development and a possible 2018 WorldSBK line-up after retaining Davide Giugliano to race when Japanese star Takumi Takahashi is not available.
The Japanese star, who is also an HRC test rider, will make his debut this weekend at Portimao alongside Stefan Bradl and is also slated to race at Jerez. This leaves Giugliano on the bike for Magny-Cours and Qatar - two chances to secure himself a spot for next year.
“Takumi is an HRC rider, he was testing the previous bike, he is doing really well with the current SP2 machine so I think it is very important for us to get his feedback about the Superbike,” said Honda’s Marco Chini.
“For the rest of the season where Takahashi is not available because of clashes with the Japanese championship, we will keep running Davide Giugliano. All these riders have really helped with development because with different riding styles you have more information.
“It has been a very difficult season for many reasons. We believe now that with the closer connection to Japan we can really summarise where we are for the next step.”
Chini wouldn’t be drawn on any kind of line-up for next year but it is thought that incumbent Bradl will occupy one slot. The series hasn’t had a Japanese front-runner since Ryuichi Kiyonari and the direct link to HRC would be a godsend if Takahashi were to agree to a full season.
“At the moment we are discussing, there are no fixed plans but the decision will be made pretty soon,” said Chini.
Giugliano will want to a berth with the team and there is also Leon Camier to factor in, although the British rider probably wouldn’t move unless there were some favourable rule changes and concrete evidence of serious testing and development work through the winter.