Mild-mannered, quietly-spoken, but occasionally bursting into child- like fits of giggles, Ryuichi Kiyonari has never responded well to the glare of the media - but MCN sat down with the double British Superbike Champion to talk about his four years in the UK.
With a move to World Superbikes’ Hannspree Honda confirmed, here's what he remembers about his time in the UK.
MCN: Four seasons - what’s been your best moment?
Kiyonari: 2004 Donington Park. I had ridden many races all year and had no wins. Start of year was very difficult, all new to me.
We came better and better but when we came to Donington no-one expected me to win so to win both races was very, very special to me.
Also Brands Hatch 2005, when I lost the championship to Gregorio (Lavilla) in the final round. I finished fourth in both races and it was a very bad time.
Even HRC boos Saturo Horiike came expecting me to win. But it was a very important lesson to me and something I remembered in 2006. From this defeat I understood how to win the championship.
MCN: When you look back on your career, how do you think you will remember British Superbikes?
Kiyonari: I will remember fish and chips! I’ll remember my crew chief Adrian Gorst asking me so many questions.
When I get off bike he asks me. When I come to garage he asks me. When I am in hospitality he asks me. So many questions. But he’s very good crew chief!
I will remember Saturday nights with my mechanics on the weekends we have no race. Not many, many weekends but some very special times in Louth - and much drinking.
MCN: What’s been your favourite track here?
Kiyonari: Mallory Park. I like before the chicane at Gerards. I like that very fast corner.
You had to ride so aggressive and it was so exciting. After I had my crash (at Edwina’s) in 2005 they modified the fast corner to make it safer.
I understand this and it was good for safety but it’s not as exciting now.
MCN: What would you mark down as the track you liked the least?
Kiyonari: Cadwell Park. It’s our home track and I live very close. And it sounds crazy but I like the track.
But for some reason I cannot go fast over Mountain. Rest of track is so-so, but Mountain is scary.
Maybe I just need bigger balls?
MCN: What will you remember as the best scrap you’ve had in British Superbikes.
Kiyonari: So many! With Gregorio (Lavilla), Leon Haslam, Jonathan Rea, Michael Rutter.
I like racing the Ducatis most because their machine has such different character compared to the Honda so their bike is fast in some places, mine is better in others and that makes it very interesting.
I think the most exciting races were at Brands Hatch last year (when Ryuichi Kiyonari won the title after winning the first race by 0.181s from Haslam).
MCN: Who’s been the biggest help to you since you’ve been in British Superbikes?
Kiyonari: So many! I said that to last question (giggles). Everybody at Honda Racing. Adrian (Gorst – crew chief) has taught me so much.
My mechanics have been great, especially on Saturday nights in Louth.
When I came here there was no joking. All very serious.
Now we are all very close and always good fun. Neil Tuxworth has been good boss – and he’s a funny guy too.
Havier (Beltran – Honda Racing’s co-ordinator and Ryuichi Kiyonari’s landlord) has been really good to me.
I lived in his house for over two years now. I’d like to be able to tell you some secrets about him but there aren’t any. He’s just a normal guy.
He likes his red wine – but I like his red wine also. He’s been a good friend to me.