By Christian Tiburtius
One of the most hotly anticipated signings of the 2013 MCE British Superbike season is the return of Ryuichi Kiyonari, re-joining the now Samsung-backed Honda team that he won his three titles for.
Kiyonari remains the all-time record holder for BSB wins, but - having spent 2012 racing in Asia - is now just two victories clear of reigning champion Shane Byrne.
Kiyonari and former team-mate Byrne both have the chance to become the undisputed BSB king this season, being tied on three BSB titles alongside past master Niall Mackenzie.
caught up with 30-year-old Kiyo - who has also raced in MotoGP and won races in WSBK - at team principal Havier Beltran's office…
How would your friends or family describe your character?
Having known him for a long time and knowing how he is, perhaps I can interject here? He's a very quiet, humble person. He's someone who doesn't like the limelight and is comfortable to be in the background. When we go to the dealerships, Kiyo is quite happy mingling and talking with people at their own level and people who have come to meet him are often impressed or overwhelmed by that. He treats all people the same.
Do you enjoy doing interviews and public appearances?
I do enjoy events and interviews, but I don't think I am good at giving interviews. I think I'm naturally shy with people and even in Japan it's the same. I tend not to talk so much there either. I prefer to just sit on my bike and go riding. I think all racers feel that way.
How did you start riding motorbikes, was your family happy that you went motorbike racing?
I was maybe 5 or 6 years old and I started on mini motos and it was my father who wanted me to go racing, but honestly I didn't want to. I wanted to stay home playing football or baseball, I just wanted to hang out with my friends. Really until I was perhaps 18 years old I could take or leave the racing. I thought the riding was fun, but not the racing and couldn't really push.
But at the end of 2001 my attitude changed and I really started to want to win, it didn't matter if I wanted to race or not the most important thing was that I wanted to win, and I also didn't want to lose. That helped to give me the confidence to start pushing and ride harder.
At the time I didn't really have any biking heroes, basically any world champion was who I looked up to. But it was the 500cc GP bikes I really liked.
But in the end I'm happy because I'm here in BSB.
If your son said he wanted to be a Motorbike racer, what would you say?