Current Rizla Suzuki rider Atsushi Watanabe will join Relentless Suzuki by TAS Racing for the 2009 Bennetts British Superbike Championship.

Watanabe, who arrived in BSB this season as the reigning Japanese Superbike champion, has taken a best finish of just seventh and currently sits 15th in the championship standings with one round to go.

"I am very grateful to Crescent for bringing me to the British Superbike series. I have learnt much this year that I hope I will be able to use to get good results next season," he said.

"I'm now very excited to be joining the Relentless Suzuki team for 2009," added the Japanese. "I am aware of their past results and pedigree, both in British championship and also in international road racing, so I am confident that we can move forward together in 2009 with the all-new GSX-R1000 Suzuki."

"We are very pleased to have secured Atsushi's services for the 2009 British Superbike Championship and we look forward to welcoming, both he and his wife, to our base in Northern Ireland," commented TAS team principle Philip Neill. "We trust they will enjoy the Irish hospitality and also our way of life.

"Atsushi is obviously an immensely talented rider, indicated not only by his results, but also by his status in Japan with Suzuki. He brings a wealth of experience to our team and his development experience throughout the GSX-R range, will I'm sure, prove to be invaluable.

"Everyone at TAS Racing is excited about this new chapter and we're already looking forward to testing and developing the 2009 GSX-R1000 with Atsushi in the coming months."

With Tom Sykes already confirmed as moving to the World Superbike Championship next season, Rizla Suzuki will thus field two new riders in 2009.

"Atsu is one of the nicest people I have ever met but unfortunately he will not be racing for our team in 2009," said Rizla team manager Jack Valentine. "The whole team thanks him for his efforts and wishes him the very best for the future."

Michael Laverty is currently ninth in the 2008 BSB standings for Relentless Suzuki by TAS.