Reigning MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship-winning outfit HM Plant Honda has officially announced its rider line-up for the 2011 campaign – by confirming that Ryuichi Kiyonari will be staying on-board to defend his hard-fought crown, and that he will be joined by series returnee and fans' favourite Shane 'Shakey' Byrne.
Between them, Kiyonari and Byrne have five BSB titles to their names – with the former equalling Niall Mackenzie's record of three trophies when he swept to glory with a hat-trick of wins in the 2010 finale at Oulton Park at the conclusion of the 'Showdown' last month. What's more, the seven victories tallied by 'Kiyo' this year took the Japanese star to a record-breaking total of 41, surpassing the previous benchmark set at 37 by John Reynolds.
Kiyonari will sport the coveted #1 on his bike for the first time since claiming his second consecutive BSB championship back in 2007, and as he bids to set another new record by clinching the riders' laurels for a fourth time in 2011 – and a fourth for HM Plant into the bargain – the 28-year-old admits he is fired-up indeed.
“I wanted to come back to try and keep the number one,” he is quoted as having said by the championship's official website. “This was a tough season; the races were hard, so I was really happy to win again in the final round.
“I now want to win again, as nobody has won the championship four times. There is new competition for next season, like 'Shakey' coming back and riders changing teams, so it is another new challenge. It is important to me to win again, and I know that with HM Plant Honda we can fight for it.”
“We are very happy to announce this strong, two-rider line-up in the British Superbike Championship,” added HM Plant Honda team manager Havier Beltran. “We knew we needed a very competitive rider to replace Josh, who did a great job for us, and now we've got two very talented and experienced riders with five BSB titles between them.
“Jason [O'Halloran – Superstock] is also a key up-and-coming talent, and we know he will settle into the team very quickly. With all three riders, a championship-winning team and the superb CBR1000RR Fireblade being developed still further, we expect to be a real force to be reckoned with in the 2011 championships.”
Byrne, for his part, will be marking his return to BSB competition for the first time since securing his second title with Ducati two years ago, and off the back of a brace of frustrating seasons with the Italian manufacturer's privateer Sterilgarda and Althea operations in World Superbikes. The last time the 33-year-old rode a Honda was in 2007.
To read what 'Shakey' has to say on his comeback, click here