The Halsall Racing team is heading back to short circuit action this year after signing Joe Francis to contest the 2017 Dickies British Supersport Championship.

The team, headed by entrepreneur Martin Halsall, will now be known as Halsall Racing and will run Francis on a Yamaha R6 in the leading series.

Following four years in the MCE British Superbike Championship, Halsall is returning to the paddock this year after signing 2013 British Motostar champion Francis. The 19-year-old from Chester made his series debut last year following two seasons in Superstock 600.

He ended the year in seventh position overall, following a year dogged by bad luck including breaking his wrist in the season-opener at Silverstone which forced him to miss two rounds.

Despite a few other issues including arm pump and bike struggles, the teenager bounced back and celebrated a win and countless podiums towards the end of the season, making him hot property and bringing him to the attention of several teams.

But his plans for the year hit a stumbling block last month when he was left without a ride, and after learning that Halsall had built an R6, he got in touch to see if he would be able to help.

“I spoke to Martin to see if he’d be interested in running the Yamaha in Supersport, and he got back the next day and said it was happening,” said Francis. “It all came about every quickly.

“It’s fantastic to finally have something sorted; especially with Martin because he runs a slick, professional team and as everyone knows, his bikes are perfectly prepared and want for nothing.

“We’re doing the Donington test on Wednesday and that will be my only chance to ride the bike before the season starts, so we have a lot to do.

“I want to try and get as many high points finishes in the first races as possible and then work towards getting the wins in by about the third round. There’s no reason we can’t win this year and I’m extremely grateful to Martin for giving me this opportunity.”

Martin Halsall added: “I’m thrilled to be announcing that Joe is going to be riding for us. We’ve had a busy winter making plans, and even though we left the BSB series last year, we wanted to still be involved.

“I wasn’t sure what we were going to be doing next, but when Joe got in touch it seemed the perfect solution.

“Joe is a very talented rider and he’s also a great lad. He’s proved he can win races and I am certain he can win the championship. I’m looking forward to coming back to the British paddock and working with Joe, and I believe we can have a strong, successful year toget