Ryuichi Kiyonari could be set to make a shock return to the World Superbike championship in 2019 as Honda ramp up their effort in the series.
For some time, rumours have circulated that there could be increased involvement from Japan for Honda’s World Superbike project next year and it is now looking likely that support will come in the form of Moriwaki Racing, who will join forces with the official Honda team next season.
Moriwaki have close links with HRC in Japan and have been keen to move into the World Superbike series for some time. Midori Moriwaki, the firm’s Managing Director, was present at a number of rounds this season as they weighed up options to join the series.
Three-time British champion Kiyonari has spent the last two seasons racing in Japan with the Moriwaki squad and took victory in the final round of the 2018 Japanese Superbike championship at Suzuka this past weekend.
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The shock news isn’t expected to end there for Honda as they look to turnaround their struggling WorldSBK project. Rumours suggest they could move away from the Ten Kate team with Moriwaki instead joining forces with Genesio Bevilacqua’s Althea Racing squad, leaving Ten Kate to look after Supersport and Supersport 300 racing activities.
Leon Camier is already contracted direct with Honda for 2019, so he will go to whoever runs the official set-up alongside the as yet unnamed second rider.
Eugene Laverty, Xavi Fores and Marco Melandri had all been linked to the second seat, but it’s understood there has been a strong push for a Japanese rider in the squad hence Kiyonari entering the mix.
The 36-year-old has vast experience of Honda’s CBR1000RR Fireblade and Pirelli tyres, but hasn’t ridden in World Superbikes since 2009. Despite winning three races in the series, Kiyonari failed to set the world alight during his tenure in the class, finishing 9th and 11th in his two World Superbike seasons.
Confirmation of Honda’s 2019 plans is expected to come during this week’s EICMA show in Milan.
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