Noriyuki Haga is set to make a sensational return to the World Superbike Championship at Imola after reaching an agreement with Team Grillini BMW to participate in a one-off event.
The Japanese rider, a three-time WSBK runner-up and 43-time race winner, has been missing from the WSBK paddock since the end of 2011 when he was unable to secure a ride at the highest level. Proceeding to make his debut in the British Superbike Championship with Swan Yamaha instead, Haga endured a tough baptism of fire on the domestic scene and would subsequently not return for 2013.
However, with his current plans for this season focused only on the Suzuka 8 Hours endurance event, when he will join Kevin Schwantz and Yukio Kagayama
in a 'legends' line-up, Haga will now also embark on a surprise return to WSBK action at Imola riding the privateer BMW S1000RR prepared by Team Grillini.
Set to test the bike for the first time at Mugello prior to the Imola event, which will be held on 30th June, Haga's return is an unexpected occasion for a rider that has maintained a fairly low profile since the end of the 2012 BSB season. Furthermore, the decision to join Grillini BMW – which has endured two seasons towards the back end of the WSBK grid – will court further surprise.
"I am very happy to have reached an agreement with Haga and his management," said team manager Andrea Grillini. "For the Italian round Haga will be supported by a dedicated crew of technicians. I am sure that Haga's return in Superbike is a great news for his fans and for the series itself."
As it stands, Grillini's best finish in World Superbikes is an 11th place for Norino Brignola last season, though Haga has a strong record at Imola, scoring a pair of podiums aboard the PATA Aprilia in 2011.
The deal with Haga is currently only in place for one event, with current rider Vittorio Iannuzzo also set to ride in an expanded two-man line-up.