Three-time MCE British Superbike Champion Ryuichi Kiyonari will not return to the series next year, instead opting to race in the All Japan Road Race Championship.
The Japanese ace, who won the British title twice in 2006/07 before securing it for a third time in 2010, will make a return to Honda for 2017 as he joins the Moriwaki Racing team in Japan to compete in the Superbike series and prestigious Suzuka Eight Hour.
Kiyonari leaves British Superbikes after a challenging two years in which he was unable to replicate his title fighting form of old. The 34-year-old has become somewhat of an enigma over the years, a drop in form following his 2010 title success saw Kiyonari head back to Japan once before, and although he didn’t stun upon his return with Honda in 2013, he would then go on to fight for the title once more after a shock switch to BMW a year later.
However, it all went wrong as he crashed out in practice of the final round at Brands Hatch and broke his collarbone. His 2015 season was also marred by a collarbone injury.
Kiyonari will be fondly remembered by the BSB paddock, but his manager Charlie has already joked he may well return in the future.
"I am really excited to be back in the Japanese Championship and back with Honda. To be honest, it took me sometime to make this decision. I have been racing longer in BSB than any other series, and the UK has been my home for long time.
"I had to choose from the offers I got from teams in BSB, and from Japan, and it was the hardest decision to make. But Moriwaki is a well-known team with a long history in racing, and their future plans matched well with what I wanted to do. Being able to return to Honda, also played an important role in this decision. I will be pairing with Yuki (Takahashi) at the Suzuka 8 Hours, and I am already looking forward to it.
"I would like to thank all the teams and riders in BSB, to MSVR and Stuart Higgs, and to all the fans in the UK for the support they have given me. I will be back in the BSB! I will be racing in a different place next year, but I hope they will continue to support me. And to the Japanese fans, I am happy to return to Japan, and that I will be able to ride in front of them."
Series boss Stuart Higgs added: “Kiyonari's not unexpected return to full time racing in Japan brings down the curtain (for now!) on an illustrious BSB career.
“It's been an enormous pleasure to preside over his BSB successes and we all wonder what might have been in 2014 when he took the title race down to the wire. Of course it's been perplexing to see such changes in form in recent seasons and it was great to see him running at the front in what was his final MCE BSB race at Brands Hatch on the Smiths BMW.
“Ganbatte Kudasai Kiyo.”
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