Honda test rider Takumi Takahashi will join the Red Bull Honda World Superbike squad for the upcoming rounds at Portimao and Jerez.
Since the tragic death of Nicky Hayden in May, the Honda WorldSBK squad has run two riders alongside Stefan Bradl.
MotoAmerica star Jake Gagne made his WorldSBK debut with the team at Laguna Seca before the summer break, while ex-Ducati rider Davide Giugliano rode the Fireblade at the Lausitzring last month.
Three-times Suzuka 8 Hours winner Takahasi has vast experience of Honda machinery from his exploits in the Japanese Superbike series, and is rumoured to be bringing some much-needed support from HRC to the WorldSBK project.
“I’m honoured, as a rider who has continuously fought to race on the world stage, that mu achievements and experience have been recognized, and I have been given the opportunity to race in the World Superbike Championship” said Takahasi ahead of WorldSBK debut in Portugal next weekend.
“I’ll use all of the experience I’ve gained racing the CBR1000RR Fireblade SP2 in the All-Japan championship to aim high and contribute to the team.
“I’d like to ride my best in front of the world’s Superbike fans, so I hope they’ll looks forward to seeing me.”
Honda WorldSBK Operations Manager Marco Chini added: “He is a very talented rider and this year has really stepped up his game; he is among the quickest riders in Japan.
“Honda has always had an extremely high regard of his skills as a racer and test rider, and his long-term experience with the Fireblade will surely help the team and Honda to have a clearer idea of the current package in order to plan future development.”
Takahashi currently sits second in the All-Japan Superbike standings, five points adrift of the championship lead, having won two races so far this season.
The Japanese rider also boasts MotoGP experience, having made a one-off appearance at the Japanese Grand Prix in 2015. Takahashi managed to score points on that occasion with a 12th-place finish.
It is unclear at present who will be riding the second Fireblade at Magny-Cours between the Portimao and Jerez rounds, and at the season-ending Qatar round.