A SUPERBIKE racer from York is preparing for his debut season in the UK's leading road racing championship.

Joey Thompson has earned himself a place in the Bennetts British Superbike Championship and is now readying for the campaign opener in June.

The 23-year-old has linked up with NP Motorcycles BMW ahead of the race at Oulton Park, held from June 25 to 27.

Thompson is no stranger to success on bikes, with a fifth-placed finish in the Lightweight TT class at the 2018 edition of the world-famous Isle of Man TT among his accomplishments, but he admits this has come a bit out of the blue.

Nevertheless, Thompson is thrilled to be taking part in the competition.

Not only is it a great achievement for any rider to reach the BSB chequered flag but it also keeps him in competitive action during a time when, like every other sport, superbike racing has been hit by the coronavirus pandemic. Both the 2020 and 2021 editions of the Isle of Man TT have been cancelled.

“I wanted to do (BSB) but it’s not been something I’ve been working towards,” Thompson said.

“It’s not like I’m not very good, I’m just surprised it’s happened this late in the season.

“I’m over the moon.

“If not for this, I wouldn’t be doing a great deal until the TT comes back.

“The opportunity is massive. A lot of people work their whole careers to make it onto the grid.

“I wouldn’t have done it without my sponsors. Doing the sport relies on backing from sponsors. I wouldn’t be here without the backing from my sponsors for the last five or six years. I’m pleased for them that I’m on the superbike grid.

“From the outside looking in, it looks like a one-man sport but the amount of people helping you, like with repairs, is massive.”

Thompson started racing around the age of five - and while some sportspeople hold lofty ambitions from a young age, Thompson was not one of them.

“It was something to do with my dad on a weekend,” he explained. “I never took it too seriously. If you’d told me then that I would be racing in British Superbikes, I’d have laughed.”

The achievement is made all the sweeter given the challenges of the last few years. After finding himself apathetic about winning races and struggling to maintain professional relationships, he was diagnosed with high-functioning autism.

“I struggled with that for years until I came to grips with it, why I found it hard to stick with certain teams. I struggled with the publicity,” Thompson said.

“Generally, it wasn’t a great time.

“I went to get help because I was in a low place. It took about a year to start feeling okay again.

“To come back like this in the premier class is a bigger win than anything.”

This latest step up comes after an Ulster Grand Prix win in 2017, a double podium at the North West 200 in 2018 and 10th at the 2021 British GP2 Championship, a BSB support series.

“I didn’t set the world alight but since then, I’ve believed in myself,” Thompson commented modestly.

On his hopes for the season he added: “It takes years to be at the front in British Superbikes. It’s the second series down from British GP. It might as well be a world championship, but that status is already taken.

“I’m confident I’ll do a good job and bring the team results. I’m aiming to score a couple of points (by getting a position in the top 15).

“It’s completely different to anything I’ve done before. These bikes do 210mph - it’s a bit brutal and if you crash, it hurts.”

In accordance with the rules of the competition, Thompson’s current training regime features a push bike and weights rather than a superbike.

But, he concluded: “I couldn’t be more prepared.”