Reigning European Superstock 1000 champion Michael Ruben Rinaldi will step up to the World Superbike class in 2018 with the Ducati Junior team.

The 22-year-old Italian took the STK1000 title in his second year in the series on a Panigale R in 2017, and was linked to potential wildcards in WorldSBK having tested for the factory team at Jerez in November last year.

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After his and the Junior team’s impressive run in the STK1000 category, Ducati felt stepping up to WorldSBK was the next logical step, with Rinaldi set to contest all of the 2018 season’s European races.

“I’m obviously very happy for this opportunity,” Rinaldi enthused.

“To be able to keep racing with the Racing – Junior Team after two memorable seasons, and to step up to WorldSBK, with a competitive bike and such a great crew, is a dream come true.

“We will start our season in Aragon, so we’ll try to use the extra time available to be even more prepared.

“The goal is first and foremost to learn as much as possible, and to improve both my riding and my working approach, but clearly we’ll also try to show our potential, because we have all the necessary tools to achieve good results.”

The team will evaluate Rinaldi‘s performances at this year’s European races in order to make a decision on contesting a full campaign in 2019.

“We can count on the experience gained with the official team in the past three seasons on track with the Panigale R, whose potential is clear,” said team boss Stefanco Cecconi.

“For us, it will be a season during which to learn and grow, but we’re also confident about our chances to put ourselves in the limelight when the opportunity comes.”