Ten Kate Honda has firmed it World Superbike rider line-up for 2012 after announcing MotoGP rider Hiroshi Aoyama will join Jonathan Rea in the team next year.
The Japanese rider, currently in the midst of his second MotoGP season with Gresini, had been linked with a switch to the top production series after losing out in Honda's desire to cut costs across its MotoGP programme.
Nonetheless, the 2009 250GP champion remains well regarded in the Honda camp, prompting the decision to stick with the manufacturer for 2012, albeit in the World Superbike Championship.
Following in the footsteps of Carlos Checa, Marco Melandri and Max Biaggi, Aoyama is looking forward to this new phase in his career.
"I have raced in MotoGP for the last couple of years and it has really been a great experience for me," said Aoyama. "I really want to thank Fausto Gresini and all the staff and technicians of Team San Carlo Honda Gresini for this extraordinary period in my career.
“Now I have the opportunity to go to World Superbike with Honda and Ten Kate Racing and I'm very excited about this new challenge. I don't know very much about Superbike but I really hope to make a good job together with my new team.”
Aoyama's acquisition comes as Honda attempts to turn its fortunes around, having seen the likes of Max Neukirchner and Ruben Xaus struggle on the CBR1000RR over the last two seasons. Nonetheless, Ten Kate team manager Ronald ten Kate is certain Aoyama, despite his Superbike inexperience, is a perfect fit for his outfit.
"We are all thrilled about Hiroshi Aoyama joining us for what promises to be a really exciting 2012 World Superbike championship. He's coming to SBK at still quite a young age and the speed he has shown in the last couple of years in MotoGP is beyond question.
“We hope that, with a solid winter testing programme, we can make Hiroshi's transition to the new SBK-specification Fireblade as quick and easy as possible. Of course, we'd like to thank Ruben [Xaus] for his efforts this season and the team wishes him the very best for the future."