The 2013 British Superbike Championship kicks off at Brands Hatch this weekend with Ryuichi Kiyonari of Louth team Samsung Honda gunning for a fourth title.
Japanese rider Kiyonari will be up against Kent’s Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne, formerly of the Louth-based HM Plant Honda team, in the ‘War for Four’ title victories.
Byrne, from Sittingbourne, returns to his home circuit to begin his title defence for the Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki team and is just two race wins short of Kiyonari’s record race-winning tally of 43.
The pair have shown a similar pace in pre-season testing and both riders are fully focused on becoming the undisputed king of MCE BSB at the end of this year’s 26 race-long Championship campaign.
Kiyonari said: “I am looking forward to the first races of the season but I am also a bit nervous; I always get nervous before the start of a season!
“It is exciting for me to be back in the championship with Samsung Honda - testing has been good, but now all I want to do is race.
“I have come back to get good results again for myself, the team and the British fans.
“I want to show that I am not finished, that I can be faster and can win again.
“There are many good riders in the championship like Shakey, Alex (Lowes) and Josh (Brookes) so it won’t be easy, but I will be trying very, very hard to win again.”
Byrne is currently the bookies’ favourite to lift the 2013 title, narrowly shorter than Samsung Honda’s Alex Lowes. Also tipped to be in the running are Josh Brookes, James Ellison and Kiyonari.
Louth rider Peter Hickman is as long as 100/0 to lift the title for his new team GB Moto Honda.
Shakey said: “Pre-season everyone is talking about me and Kiyo but I think there is going to be a great deal more to come from the other riders too.
“I genuinely think this is one of the most competitive Championships in the world and I think the racing is going to be really exciting across the classes.”
The 2013 grid at Brands Hatch will feature a further six MCE BSB race winners, including Lowes.