Ryuichi Kiyonari has taken on the mantle of title challenger and championship leader for HM Plant Honda Racing at the penultimate round of the Bennetts British Superbike series at Donington Park. He has assumed the leading position on the factory CBR1000RR Fireblade after team-mate Michael Rutter lost the initiative over the past three rounds at Silverstone, Cadwell Park and Oulton Park.
Gregorio Lavilla has also entered the battle for the coveted title of British Superbike Champion in 2005, but thanks to a double win at the last round at Oulton, Kiyonari has his destiny in his own hands. The 22-year-old Japanese star won the prestigious Suzuka 8-hour endurance race in his native country during the mid-season break and since then he has used his renewed confidence to claw back into championship contention.
Despite missing two rounds of the ultra-competitive series in May through injury, Kiyonari has powered the HM Plant Honda Racing CBR1000RR Fireblade to an impressive 12 victories - treble the number of his nearest challenger. His growing experience and confidence of the previously unknown British circuits have played a key role in this charge to the top of the points table.
While hard work and natural talent have obviously played a part in Kiyonari's winning run, the combination of HM Plant Honda Racing and Michelin tyres have also played a major role. A double winner at Donington Park at the end of last season, the championship leader will be hoping for a similarly strong race set-up at this season's corresponding event to extend his slim one-point advantage over Lavilla.
Rutter is also looking to last year's Donington round for inspiration. The 32-year-old Midlander broke the lap record for the 2.5-mile Grand Prix circuit in pursuit of the hot pace set by his team-mate. A repeat of his two second places at the famous Leicestershire track would not only help him to narrow the gap on Lavilla, but also to assist his HM Plant Honda Racing team-mate's title quest.
Ryuichi Kiyonari: "I am very happy after my performance at Oulton Park. We have a good set-up for the HM Plant Honda this season. I hope that I can win two more races at Donington Park this weekend. I like the circuit because I have good memories from last year. However, the championship is very close and it is important for me to finish both races. The track is quite difficult and so I must work hard to find a good race set-up."
Michael Rutter: "After the last few rounds, I'm hoping for a change of fortune this weekend. My aim is to get my season back on track and return to the podium once again. I like the Donington Park GP circuit - it's a good track and I hold the Superbike lap record there. HM Plant Honda Racing had a good end to the championship at Donington last season and we're hoping to at least equal that performance at the weekend."