Eleventh on the grid and a best race finish of fourth probably wasn't what Ryuichi Kiyonari was expecting on his return to HM Plant Honda and the British Superbike Championship at Croft.

The former double BSB champion left the series on top at the end of 2007 to join Ten Kate Honda in the World Superbike championship, with whom he took three race wins last season at British tracks Brands Hatch and Donington Park.

This season has been something of a step backwards, with only two podiums and eleventh in the championship - behind team-mates Jonathan Rea (4th) and Carlo Checa (7th) - after 22 of the 26 races.

Kiyonari's popular BSB return in place of the injured Glen Richards was therefore seen as a chance for the Japanese to regain form, having failed to finish in the WSBK top six since May, although the Japanese preferred to label it as a bit of fun.

"Being back with the HM Plant Honda team is a bit like coming 'home'," said Kiyo on Sunday. "We all slotted straight back into things together it was a fun and relaxed weekend."

Fellow WSBK regulars Karl Muggeridge and Broc Parkes had provided Kiyonari with a target in wild-card BSB appearances of their own this season.

Muggeridge stepped onto the same HM Plant for the Brands Hatch triple header, when he qualified eighth and finished fourth, seventh and sixth in the races. The unique Cadwell Park circuit proved a tougher test for the Australian, with 13th in qualifying followed by seventh and 13th in the races.

But Parkes - best finish of tenth in WSBK this season - had proven it was possible to step in and fight at the very front in BSB, having qualified his Kawasaki second at Brands and then finished runner-up to title leader Leon Camier in all three races.

Against that backdrop, most expected to see Kiyonari at the sharp end of the field at Croft - a circuit he 'loves' and where he won both races at his last visit in 2007 - and many were predicted a thrilling Camier/Kiyonari duel.

After Camier's race one mistake, Kiyonari did beat the Yamaha rider en route to fourth place, just 0.7sec behind team-mate Josh Brookes - but over ten seconds from race winner Stuart Easton (also on a Honda).

"Starting from eleventh on the grid wasn't going to make the race easy but the bike's setting have been good and I was able to make my way through the field," Kiyonari said after race one.

"It would have been nice to finish on the podium with Josh but I'm pleased with fourth for my first time back in BSB after two years."

Race two proved an even tougher test, with a loss of front end confidence dropping the Japanese back to 18th position.

"For race two we chose to make a few set-up changes to the bike for development evaluation but I didn't have as much confidence in the front of the bike so couldn't push as hard," he said.

Team-mate Brookes took his second podium of the day with another third in race two.

"Kiyo has slotted back in like he's never been away which made for a good team atmosphere for him and the team and rode very well for this fourth place in race one," stated team manager Havier Beltran.

"To continue with bike development and evaluation we made a few changes to set-up for race two, but this resulted in Kiyo having less confidence in the front end and not being able to push as hard, hence his disappointing race position."

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