Ever since the rumours first emerged mid-way through last year, HRC’s long-awaited return to the World Superbike Championship has been surrounded in mystery.
All we have seen thus far is what seemed to be a hastily-arranged announcement of the two riders, Leon Camier and Ryuichi Kiyonari, in a HRC presentation at EICMA – no official press release followed the announcement and we only know the name of the team – Moriwaki Althea Honda Racing – through the official World Superbike entry lists.
Even now, with less than a month to go until the series kicks off in Australia, little is known about the new factory-backed effort. Althea’s sister team, which will run former Superstock 1000 front runner Alessandro Delbianco, launched last week with Midori Moriwaki and HRC boss Tesuhiro Kuwata present but there has been no indication as to when the official team will surface.
Honda’s World Superbike social media channels have largely been silent since the rider announcement, further increasing the mystery surrounding the new squad.
Absent from this week’s two unofficial winter tests in Jerez and Portimao, the HRC-backed effort has instead decided to keep their testing behind closed doors in Asia.
It’s understood a shakedown test at Thailand’s Buriram circuit didn’t get off to the best of starts as the bikes failed to arrive at the track after rumoured issues with customs. However, it is believed Camier and Kiyonari will take to the track for the first time properly at the Thai circuit, which hosts the second round of the championship in March, later this week.
Aside from Midori Moriwaki and Genesio Bevilacqua at the helm, little is known about the team’s structure although it’s thought former Honda WSB boss and ex-Jonathan Rea crew chief Chris Pike will form part of the squad, most likely heading up Camier’s side of the garage.
The first time the new effort will roll out with their competitors will be during the official pre-season test at Phillip Island the week of the first round, meaning we won’t know where they are at until then… Will they come back and hit the ground running with the previously struggling Fireblade, or will it be more of a slow burner?