German Max Neukirchner is switching championships in 2011, moving from the World Superbike to the MotoGP paddock, but not in the premier class. Instead the former Hannspree Ten Kate Honda rider will join the MZ factory as one of two riders on their expanded Moto2 team."We are happy and excited," team principal Martin Wimmer said. "Max grew up only kilometers from the MZ factory at Zschopau, and it's great to have such a promising German rider in a German factory team. We have the structure and the resources to offer him a competitive package for next year, and we also believe in Neukirchner's ability as a rider even though he had a difficult year in the World Superbike series."As far as our second rider goes, there are three options and we have not taken a decision yet. We will know more after the official Moto2 test session in Valencia." Current rider Anthony West, who finished 21st in today's Moto2 practice in Estoril, is certain to be one of the riders in the mix.The inaugural Moto2 season has been a difficult one for the MZ team. The team builds their own frames and the early versions of their racebike carried considerably more weight than their competitors, who were using frames from more establishe companies like Suter and Moriwaki. The weight has come off the bike as the season's progressed, but the machine is not as competitive as the front-runners.In addition to fielding two riders in the World Championship, the team will run another two riders in the Spanish Championship."MZ has a long tradition and a great racing history, and the factory has always been the pride and joy of the people in Saxony. I grew up in this region, and to join MZ as a factory rider is very exciting and certainly a milestone in my career," Neukirchner said. "We have put a great package together for 2011, with a new bike from MZ and with Marco Nicotari, who used to run Team Alto Evolution, as my new crew chief. I am confident that we will be able to compete on the highest level."Neukirchner, 27, has been racing in the World Superbike championship for the past six years. His best year was 2008, where he scored two race wins, seven podium finishes and fifth place overall on the Alstare Suzuki. This year Neukirchner slumped to 18th overall, never qualifying or finishing above ninth. Teammate Jonathan Rea finished fourth overall, with four wins and one pole.

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Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor

Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.

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