Having seen his last chance too remain a full time MotoGP
rider next season, on a third Kawasaki, evaporate Shinya Nakano
has officially called an end to his ten-year grand prix career by signing to ride for Aprilia in the 2009 World Superbike Championship, alongside Max Biaggi.
"I am very happy, for me it is a joy to be part of the great Aprilia family," said Nakano, whose deal includes an option for the 2010 season. "At Aprilia I have found a big tradition and extraordinary racing expertise, the 33 world titles won up to today are confirmation of this.
"Superbike is a new challenge and I want to use all of my experience to help the new Aprilia RSV4 project grow. It will be a honour to be able to race beside Max Biaggi, he is a hero of mine and he was an inspiration to me in the first phases of my career, I am sure that together we will succeed in developing the best motorbike and to get good results in the 2009 season," added the Japanese.
"With the signing of Nakano we complete the World Superbike team for 2009," confirmed Giampiero Sacchi, sporting director of the Piaggio Group. "Aprilia faces difficult competition, with the greatest constructors in the world as adversaries. It is a hard but fascinating challenge. Biaggi and Nakano are both fast, competitive and with great experience. These are the most important things for an innovative, technological and ambitious project like Aprilia RSV4."
Nakano finished second on his grand prix debut as a wild-card in the 1998 250cc Japanese Grand Prix, propelling him into a full time ride for Herve Poncharal's Chesterfield Yamaha Tech 3 team the following season.
The #56 won his second race for the team, again at home in Japan, while four further podiums pushed him to fourth in the 1999 standings. Shinya then continued his sharp upward trajectory the following season, when he won five races and took twelve podiums - but lost the world title to team-mate Olivier Jacque just metres from the finish at Philip Island.
Tech 3, Jacque and Nakano all graduated to 500cc with Yamaha for 2001 and Nakano claimed the first of just three premier-class podiums with third position at round nine in Germany, on his way to an excellent fifth in his rookie season (ten places ahead of Jacque). It would be by far Nakano's highest ranking in 500cc/MotoGP.
Nakano looked to have a brilliant future ahead of him, but the arrival of the new four-stroke era saw Tech 3's two-strokes outgunned for much of the 2002 season. The team were handed YZR-M1s for the last three rounds, but Yamaha's first four-stroke was no match for Honda's RC211V and Nakano finished the season eleventh in the standings, a best of fifth on the 500 and sixth on the M1.
The arrival of Alex Barros
at Tech 3 for 2003 saw Nakano shift to the d'Antin Yamaha team, but he was unable to better fifth position on the pre-Valentino Rossi version M1, and took tenth in the championship.