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HM Plant Honda Racing ready for season opener - March 22nd 2005

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    The world's leading domestic Superbike series begins this weekend (26-28 March) at Brands Hatch in Kent and the stage has been set for an explosive showdown. The Louth-based HM Plant Honda Racing team is geared up for its second consecutive factory-supported challenge for the British Superbike title, after narrowly missing out on the crown in 2004.

    The team is campaigning its Honda Racing Corporation (HRC)-prepared CBR1000RR Fireblade for a second year. Last year's HM Plant Honda Racing Superbike riders - Michael Rutter and Ryuichi Kiyonari - will once again contest the series aboard the four-cylinder, four-stroke machines on Michelin tyres.

    Thirty-one-year-old Rutter returns this season for the 13th British Superbike campaign of his career. The Leicestershire rider proved his capabilities in 2004 by finishing runner-up in the championship, despite a lack of data for the brand new factory Fireblade and Michelin tyres. He is looking to improve on the six victories, eight second and four third place finishes he achieved last season.

    Last year's corresponding event at the infamous Brands Hatch Indy track saw the Kirkby Mallory campaigner start both races from the front row and achieve a double podium finish. It is no surprise that Rutter is already being tipped as one of the favourites to win this year's ultra-competitive series.

    Rising star Kiyonari joined the HM Plant Honda Racing team in 2004 as an ambitious 21-year-old and a stranger to the majority of the British race circuits. However, despite his comparative youth, the Japanese rider had a wealth of motorcycle racing experience, a vast amount of talent and the support of HM Plant Honda Racing to help him fulfil his obvious potential.

    'Kiyo' - as he is affectionately known - didn't fail to impress and finished sixth overall in the British Superbike series. After a superb double victory at the final round at Donington Park, the 22-year-old Saitama star could prove to be a dark horse in 2005.

    During the team's recent winter tests, both riders have reported further improvements in the HM Plant Honda and have set some consistently fast and impressive lap times. Indeed, Kiyonari has had the edge on his more experienced team-mate and other opponents at the recent Knockhill, Donington Park and Brands Hatch tests.

    Michael Rutter: "Last year, the HM Plant Honda Racing CBR1000RR Fireblade was one of the best motorcycles on the grid, but this year, it's even better. We have been spending a lot of time developing and improving on the machine ahead of the season and I think we may have found a good set-up. It's fantastic to be part of the HM Plant Honda Racing team for a second year."

    Ryuichi Kiyonari: "I am happy with the progress the team has made during pre-season testing and can't wait for the championship to start. I have definitely improved my level of performance from last year. My only aim for 2005 is to work hard and try my best for HM Plant Honda Racing. In terms of winning, I'm just going to see what happens."