After a season in 2000 he would very much like to forget, Haruchika Aoki is aiming to re-ignite his career with the man he teamed up with to win his two 125cc titles in 1995 and 1996 in one of the toughest 500cc fields for many years.

The 25 year old Aoki endured a miserable World Superbike Championship campaign with the R&D Bieffe Ducati outfit last season and finished way down in 18th position in the points standings after parting company with the Italian team before season's end.

There was much speculation that Aoki would choose to retire from the sport despite his tender age but the tie up between himself and Molenaar was confirmed last week and the team could begin testing within the next few weeks.

Aoki's career has stalled since leaving Molenaar's team at the end of his 1996 Championship winning season and two lacklustre years in 250cc Grand Prix's followed by an equally uninspiring 1999 500cc campaign preceded the WSB opportunity.

However the milk quickly turned sour as the team, partly owned by ex-500cc rider Doriano Romboni, could not afford to pay Aoki or buy many new parts. Several races were missed during the year before Aoki left, forcing Romboni back into action at Assen, three rounds prior to the end of the season.

The Honda NSR V Twin that Aoki will pilot is amongst five such examples on the starting grid in 2001 and competition for the honour of best V Twin include Britain's Leon Haslam and although the machine will not be amongst the regular frontrunners, Aoki's relationship with Molenaar should propel the duo to some respectable performances.

However the future is not so bright for Aoki's former employers, who did not appear on the official 2001 World Superbike entry list and loom certain to miss this year's WSBK Championship. After Aoki's departure, team co-owner Doriano Romboni emerged from the sidelines at Assen more than a year after his last race. In wet conditions the veteran put the bike in the points in both races but things went wrong at the next round at Oschersleben when the luckless Italian became entangled with Juan Borja and was once again injured.

The team failed to attend the final round at Brands Hatch and sadly it seems as though one of WSBK's much needed competitive privateer operations has bitten the dust unless they surprise everyone by being on the grid in Valencia on March 9th.