HM Plant Honda Racing got the new season off to a dream start with an impressive one-two finish in the first British Superbike Championship race of the year at Silverstone yesterday.

Michael Rutter claimed the victory with an impressive display of speed, determination and focus. His team-mate Ryuichi Kiyonari lived up to expectations and fired a warning shot across the bows of more experienced championship riders when he followed his team-mate home to claim second place.

Kiyonari got an excellent start and took the holeshot into Copse Corner, with Rutter and Sean Emmett in hot pursuit. Emmett took the lead temporarily but was unable to keep pace with the HM Plant Honda Racing CBR1000RRs and the number three Fireblade soon eased past him and accelerated away.

Before long Kiyonari followed suit and set out after his team-mate. The 21-year-old Japanese rider's unfamiliarity with Silverstone's International circuit did not appear to be an issue and after dispatching former British Superbike champion John Reynolds, he and Rutter took it in turns to log the fastest lap of the race.

Rutter ultimately came out on top with a time of 1:37.543 on lap 21 of 22. He was able to record this time thanks to the usability of the HM Plant Honda Racing package and the excellent performance of his Michelin wet tyres on a track that was rapidly drying.

Kiyonari remained unchallenged for the remainder of the race and finished over 20 seconds clear of fourth-placed Reynolds.

"I've got to admit that I'm glad to have the first race out of the way," said a happy Rutter after the race. "I've put myself under a lot of pressure recently and expectations were high, so I wanted to do well for Honda, HM Plant and the rest of our sponsors.

"To have won first time out is just fantastic and very important to the team. The HM Plant Honda Racing Fireblade's set-up allowed me to relax and just get on with riding the bike - in fact I'd have to say that it was a really enjoyable race.

"I'd love to do the double and everything feels just right, but I'm not going to get carried away just yet. We've made a perfect start, but it's still early days and we'll be taking it one step at a time."

For Ryuichi Kiyonari it was a fantastic debut. "I am very happy to finish on the podium for HM Plant Honda Racing," he said afterwards. "I want to thank the team and sponsors and hope that this result will please them. The British fans have made me feel most welcome and I will do my best to make next race even more exciting for them."



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