Dean Harrison: Honda Move “Like Putting An Old Pair of Slippers On”

Dean Harrison will race for Honda in 2024, after spending almost a decade on Kawasaki machinery

Dean Harrison, 2024 Honda Racing UK

The 2023 Isle of Man TT was dominated by three riders: Michael Dunlop, Peter Hickman, and Dean Harrison, but only the former two were able to win races. For 2024, Harrison hopes a move to Honda will get him back on the top step.

2023 marked Harrison’s eighth year with Kawasaki and the DAO Racing squad. On the ZX-10RR, Harrison had become a TT winner, including the 2019 Senior TT, and more recently a top 10 rider in the British Superbike Championship

“I’ve been in the same team for eight years now, and I think now is as good a time as any to go and change. I’ve almost sat at the same [level] at Kawasaki for the last few years, and almost got the best out of it that I can, and unfortunately there was nothing else available on that side of things, so looking forward now to the new challenge with Honda and moving that forward. I think it will be the step that we needed to take, anyway."

Switching to Honda, Harrison hopes, will lead to improvements both on the roads and on short circuits.

“Knowing the pace I had [in 2023] at places, if I can make a step on that - and I wasn’t far away - I think I’ll be there or thereabouts,” Harrison said when Visordown spoke to him last November. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I’m going to go and win, by all means, but I’m definitely going to try and do the best with what I have available.”

Part of the reason Harrison is hopeful of short circuit improvements in 2024 is because he will, for the first time in British Superbikes, have a teammate - two, in fact, with Andrew Irwin and reigning BSB Champion Tommy Bridewell.

“I’m actually looking forward to having a teammate, because I’ve never had a teammate in BSB, and that’s where I’m hoping on that side of things that I’ll be able to learn from them and that’ll bring me on as well.”

The Kawasaki Harrison was riding until last year is the oldest Superbike in the field, with its base package stretching back to 2017. The Honda CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP he will ride in 2024, however, is a fresh update on the model that debuted in 2020.

“Obviously, I need to ride the bike properly to figure out a few bits and pieces and things like that,” Harrison said. “I don’t think there’s any ‘bad’ motorcycle out there, I think they’re all good, I just think that some are stronger in other areas than others. I think the Honda, at the minute, is definitely one of the strongest when it comes to speed and, obviously, the Isle of Man is a fast track, there’s a lot of straights, so if we can get some more speed down the straight, in my head that’s free time.”

This “free time” is something Harrison feels he experienced, from the opposite side, in 2023, when Michael Dunlop (on a Honda) and Peter Hickman (on a BMW) shared the victories between them in last year’s Superbike-class and Superstock TTs, both on faster bikes than Harrison’s Kawasaki. The performance difference made it clear to Harrison the direction he needed to go.

“I knew it had to be a similar direction [to Dunlop and Hickman], and I’ve always been a Honda fan, so to me Honda was the way I wanted to go. And I caught a few of their bikes on the track and I knew how strong they were, speed-wise, just by racing against them, and I thought to myself ‘that’s free time down the straights that I don’t need to find’. 

“So, if I can find time elsewhere, and I’ve got all the free time down the straights, hopefully that’ll make for a stronger time.”

Harrison hadn’t ridden the 2024 Fireblade when Visordown spoke to him, and he still won’t ride it in full Superbike form until the end of March. However, he had got a chance to ride the previous Fireblade in Superstock form, and he noticed a difference compared to his previous equipment.

“I’ve actually got my own ‘22 bike, which is the same, or very similar, in Superstock-spec. The first thing I noticed straight away was the power of the bike, and the power delivery - it’s definitely a step over where I’ve been [with] previous stock bikes.”

But Harrison is aware of the situation he is stepping into, with a bike which is new to both him and that team. “I’ve been on one brand for so long, so coming to a new brand it’s going to be a complete change, not just bike-wise, personnel-wise, things like that,” he said. 

“I’m just hoping that the ‘settling in’ period is quite quick. The other thing is that, because it’s- well, not a complete new bike but a new model for next year - and that’s not just for me that’s for the team as well, so there’s going to be new parts for them to learn, but obviously for me everything is new to learn, in my head I just want to try and learn it as quick as I can.”

Although the Fireblade is new to Harrison, he says the switch to the new 2024 Honda CBR600RR for the Supersport class will be “like going home again”.

“I’m actually really looking forward to riding [the CBR600RR] because my first ever racing bike was a CBR600RR, and I know how good that was. 

“So, I’m actually really looking forward to the new Supersport bike, it’s definitely going to be a step better than what it has been, and it’ll be like going home again, putting an old pair of slippers on, so I’m just as excited to ride that as I am the new Fireblade, to be honest. Every bike, to me, is going to be new, and I’m looking forward to it.”

Check out our review of the 2024 CBR600RR here, and our review of the 2024 CBR1000RR-R SP here.