After five years, four wins and 16 podiums, Yukio Kagayama
bid farewell to the World Superbike Championship at Portimao with a sole 11th place finish.
The Japanese veteran has been a mainstay of the Suzuki team in World Superbikes since joining full-time in 2005, the 35-year-old marking his arrival with a win at the very first round in Qatar.
Setting him up to finish fifth in the overall standings, the season would turn out to be Kagayama's best at world level, despite him winning three races the following year in 2006. Since then, Kagayama hasn't returned to the top of the podium and has finished outside the top ten in the overall standings for the past three seasons.
With Suzuki favouring an all-new line-up in 2010, Kagayama will revert back to the British Superbike series where he established his reputation as a firm fan favourite. In the meantime, Kagayama thanked Suzuki for giving him the opportunity to perform in World Superbikes.
“I am sad because this was my last race with the team and we have had many good times together, especially in my first year with them in 2005. Some mechanics have changed from my team to my team-mate's team, but most of the mechanics have worked with me at some stage and that makes it feel like a big family.
“I want to thank Francis Batta, Patricia, the whole team and everybody concerned for all their hard work and support during these five years. I will miss them all, but maybe I will get a wild card ride in England next year and see everybody again. Once again, many thanks to everybody.
Kagayama's final weekend didn't go to plan either, crashing in the first race after being hit by Leon Camier's Aprilia, before finishing 11th in the second behind his replacement in the team, Sylvain Guintoli.
“I am angry about my last race with this great team because it did not go as I wanted. On the first lap of the first race I was hit from behind by Camier and that caused me to crash. He must have missed his braking point by a long way, but the really bad thing is that he kept upright and carried on to finish the race, whereas I was down in the gravel. That was not a good start to the day and I came back to the pits feeling very angry. After the second race, he came to see me and he apologised for hitting me, so then I did not feel so bad.
“My bike was too badly damaged to use in race two, so I had to use my spare bike instead. This bike had a different set-up and was more aggressive to ride, so it was not easy to push it hard. I think this bike had a different engine character and it was just not as ride-able as my number one bike. I did my best, but I ended 11th and that did not make me feel happy.”