BSB Review: Difficult first season for Atsushi Watanabe

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Atsushi Watanabe may have arrived in Britain with a glowing reference and a CV good enough to make any Superbike team salivate, but the two-time Japanese Superbike champion had a difficult opening campaign in the series.

Fourteenth in the championship, 247 points shy of team-mate Tom Sykes and a best result all season of seventh at Cadwell Park was short of what most expected from the 31-year old.

Big things were expected of Watanabe, too – he’d been the factory Yoshimura Suzuki rider in Japan for five years, was a Suzuka 8 Hour regular and had a big part to play in developing recent GSX-R models.

But an inability to adapt his riding style would be his downfall for 2008.

Corner speed was his biggest hindrance, according to his Rizla Suzuki team.

Where Tom Sykes would be rushing into corners, turning the bike as fast as possible to get back upright and on the gas, Watanabe was carrying all his speed through the middle section of the bends.

It was a problem that he encountered all season long, and one he’ll have to eradicate for 2009 with the Relentless Suzuki team.

But that isn’t to say he lost his speed overnight.

Watanabe still beat Crutchlow and Haslam at the Suzuka 8 Hour, finishing second with the Yoshimura team.

Rob Hull

By Rob Hull