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
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
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
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
'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."