BSB: Opinion: Is Ryuichi Kiyonari finished?

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Ryuichi Kiyonari is the ultimate enigma. On his day he is one of the best riders the MCE British Superbike championship has seen since its inception 20 years ago, but more recently we’ve seen a completely different side to the three-time British Champion.

For the past two seasons, Kiyo has struggled to finish in the top ten. Last year, he was lucky if he got points for Buildbase BMW. Both performances that resulted in him being dropped by his team before the end of the year. 

His recent sacking was one of the most talked about BSB stories this season, which is surprising given its impending inevitability. There was a point I looked down the timing screens during the second race at Brands Hatch and Kiyo was dead last – even Kiyonari on a bad day shouldn’t be riding around that far back. It was clear, for whatever reason, his heart was not in it.

Yet just a week prior to this, the same man had jumped on Yukio Kagayama’s GSX-R1000 and convincingly led the opening stages of the prestigious Suzuka 8 Hour before going on to save the squad from disaster as he clawed them back to a respectable sixth place after a crash and catastrophe in the pits.

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I keep seeing people asking whether that’s it for Kiyo in Britain, has he had too many chances? Is he finished? I can see why people are thinking it. These last two years have been abysmal for the former champ, but I cannot bring myself to write him off when he’s already proven me and so many others wrong before. 

I genuinely thought we’d seen the best of Kiyo when he was unable to replicate his form with Honda after taking his final championship in 2010. I, like most people, wasn’t at all convinced by the move Honda to BMW for 2014, yet he’d go on to produce some of the best riding I’ve ever seen in British Championship racing later that year as he became poised to fight to be the first rider in history to clinch four BSB crowns. It’s a crying shame the paying public were robbed of that dramatic ’14 finale when Kiyo crashed and broke his collarbone in practice. 

While the past two seasons have been disastrous, Ryuichi Kiyonari is not a finished rider. If Kiyo can find his happy place, where he has the confidence to push, there is no doubt he has the talent to win BSB races again.

There are options on the table for Kiyo to complete the BSB season should he want to, and in my opinion if he opts to return it’s because he still wants it, because he believes he can. And you should believe it too. 

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Oli Rushby

By Oli Rushby

Former sports reporter covering British Superbikes, World Superbikes and road racing