Tommy Hill will defend his MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship crown with Swan Yamaha after announcing his plans for 2012 on Wednesday. The Lingfield rider saw off John Hopkins in a memorable final race to win this year's title, beating him on the last lap by 0.006s.
Hill admitted he had possibilities to race in other championships but couldn't turn down the opportunity to defend his title while sporting the number one plate across the country.
“At the end of last season after winning the title I was speaking to different teams and looking at the different championships, but I knew I needed to have the complete package. I have a lot of fans in BSB and I think having a British champion trying to hold on to the number one plate is something to get excited about; I certainly am! I really wanted to stay with Yamaha and build on the results and our relationship. The Swan Yamaha team have won one BSB title but now we are looking at how we can improve so we can do it again. The consistency with the team is very important and they have already started looking at what we can do to move forward again. The rule changes don't worry me as through most of my career I haven't used traction control. I think it will now come down more to rider input and also working as a team to get the chassis set up right. I know there has already been hard work behind the scenes at the workshop and as a rider that really gives me confidence before we even begin testing.”
“I think going into next season there is probably less pressure on me than there was last year despite being the champion. If anyone had asked me before last year what my ambitions were the answer was always to win the BSB title. That is now complete but now that I have it, I certainly won't be giving it up without a fight. I am treating next year in the same way I did last season because I definitely want to keep hold of the number one plate for myself and the Swan Yamaha team.”
Hill's teammate will be road racing legend Ian Hutchinson who will compete in his first full season in British Superbikes. The five-time Isle of Man TT winner has endured a terrible year as he battled his way back from a compound fracture of his left tibia and fibula sustained in September 2010.
'Hutchy' retuned at November's Macau Grand Prix, claiming a stunning third place, and his performance has earned him an opportunity he admits he's been looking for for years.
“Next year is definitely a big one for me and I have never been looking forward to a season so much. I am glad that I had the opportunity to race at the end of this year as I have always had faith in my own ability but I just needed to prove to any doubters that I could still race. I have wanted to race in BSB for several years but the right opportunity has never been there and that makes 2012 a big year for me. For the last three years I have won in the British Supersport and National Superstock classes, but I haven't really had full seasons to be able to fight for the title. I think the knowledge I have of riding a Superbike on the roads will help me, and in that respect the new rules will too as I have never ridden with all the gizmos. I tested the Swan Yamaha before Macau and it is a great bike to ride; everything about it feels good so I can't see any reason why I can't run at the front.
“I am over my injury now; I currently still use the right-hand gear shift that the team adapted for me to run at Macau but it is not a concern. The team have got it working perfectly for me so I just feel ready to get out testing as soon as possible! I think the injury and the year just watching from the sidelines has definitely made me want it more; I want to prove that I can still be successful and I am determined to show that. The crash doesn't faze me and I don't think of it as traumatic, but as an experience. I was just unlucky that I got hit and injured the leg so badly. As a rider it hasn't affected me as something like that can happen at any time. Now I just want to race and my aim is to get the results myself and the Swan Yamaha team deserve both in BSB and at the TT.”
With his new rider line-up, team owner Shaun Muir feels he has everything in place for another successful year on the track and on the road.
“Everyone at SMR has been working behind the scenes since the end of the 2011 season. We knew that we wanted to have continuity in the team with Tommy to try and retain the BSB crown, which everyone knows is never easy. For that to happen we wanted to give him everything he requires in order to achieve it and we have been working hard on giving him an extremely competitive package and I believe we are already ahead of the game. The team are focused and we are obviously delighted to be defending the number one plate with Tommy. He wants to win another BSB championship as much as he wanted to win his maiden one last season.”
“We were then looking at our options for a second rider. Our goals as a team and for Yamaha are to win the BSB title and win at the Isle of Man TT. We reviewed our options carefully and I have been impressed with Ian Hutchinson, not only his race craft but also his ability to work with the team and his determination to return from injury. He has spent a lot of time in the garage with us this year and his recent performance at the Macau Grand Prix proved he is over his injury now. Hutchy will be with the team for two seasons (2012 and 2013) and we are committed to him; I really want to turn him into the complete racer that can win in both disciplines. He has the potential so we want to be able to give him the opportunity to excel. We are now looking forward to working again with Swan and our new partners for the forthcoming season. We are also fielding Wesley Pearce in the Superstock class and look forward to developing his riding over the course of the year, with a view that he can progress into British Supersport in 2013.”