The worst-kept secret in motorcycle sport is out: Kiwi motocross star Ben Townley will race again for Honda in the 2011-2012 season, this time closer to home in New Zealand and Australia.
The Bay of Plenty rider rejoins the distinctive red brand as he attempts to regain his accustomed spot near the pinnacle of the sport at international level.
Townley won the MX2 world championships in Europe on a KTM in 2004, finished world No3 in the MX1 class on a KTM in 2005 and followed that by winning the East Coast Lites Supercross title on a Kawasaki in the United States in 2007.
He rode a Honda CRF450 to a thrilling race win while representing New Zealand at the Motocross of Nations in Denver, Colorado, in September last year but a series of debilitating injuries has hampered his claim for international success glory in more recent times.
Now back to full fitness and looking to return at the ultimate level, Townley has agreed on terms to race for the Carlton Dry Honda race team in Australia throughout next year and at selected high-profile events in his native New Zealand.
Townley, 26, many times a New Zealand motocross and supercross champion, will race one of the new Honda CRF450 bikes at the big annual Summercross event near Whakatane next month before tackling the Woodville Motocross Grand Prix in January and then the four-round New Zealand Motocross Championships starting in South Canterbury in February.
"My intentions were to race back in the United States, particularly after my success at the recent Monster Energy Cup event in Las Vegas, but it just didn't work out," Townley says.
"It's all about me getting the right equipment to get the job done and Honda in Australia and New Zealand were able to provide me with what I need to win races.
"I want to be winning. I have missed that lately and now I'm ready to start winning again."
Blue Wing Honda's group marketing manager, Martin Wylie, said he was thrilled to acquire Townley's signature.
"We are naturally delighted to have Ben Townley on board," he says. "He will be at all the major events in New Zealand, racing alongside our Honda Dealer Team riders. We are looking forward to an exciting season ahead."
Blue Wing Honda events and race team co-ordinator Peter Finlay was equally excited.
"Blue Wing Honda is really happy to have Ben back on a CRF and we look forward to working with him throughout the year. This is really exciting news for all New Zealand motocross fans too. The racing this season is going to be truly world class."
Townley's's first official outing on the Carlton Dry Honda CRF450 will be at the Whakatane Summercross on December 28.