Former 250cc world champion Hiroshi Aoyama is to leave MotoGP at the end of this season and ride for Castrol Honda in the 2012 World Superbike Championship.
Aoyama joined the Honda Gresini MotoGP team this season, after an injury interrupted debut year with Interwetten Honda.
The only Japanese rider on the grid, Aoyama finished a career-best fourth in a damp round two at Jerez this year, but hasn't been higher than seventh since. Aoyama is tenth in the standings with three rounds to go.
Unlike team-mate Marco Simoncelli, Aoyama has only a satellite spec RC212V, the same as LCR's Toni Elias.
“Racing in MotoGP over the past two seasons has been a great experience for me," said Aoyama.
"I want to give my sincere thanks to Fausto Gresini and all the staff and engineers at Team San Carlo Honda Gresini for this extraordinary period of my career, as well as all the other people in the MotoGP paddock who have helped and supported me.
"Now I head for a new challenge in a new championship - World Superbikes - where I hope I can do a really good job with my new team.”
Aoyama, who won nine races during six seasons in 250cc before joining MotoGP, will be team-mate to Jonathan Rea (CLICK HERE
for separate story in WSBK channel).
Simoncelli has already re-signed with Honda and Gresini for 2012, but it is not yet known if the team will continue to run two bikes.