HRC Returns to Factory Team in WorldSBK with Moriwaki and Althea

Gordon Ritchie | November 7, 2018

HRC Returns to Factory Team in WorldSBK with Moriwaki and Althea—After so many tough seasons in WorldSBK recently, Honda has radically changed course and created an HRC team in all but name with their new Althea Racing Moriwaki tie-up for next season.

Both their 2019 riders, Leon Camier and Ryuichi Kiyonari, were described as HRC riders in the EICMA show unveiling of Honda’s overall motorsport plans, sealing the status of the team as a more direct Honda home factory effort than of late, but stopping short of calling the Althea/Moriwaki effort a fully official team.

HRC Returns to Factory Team in WorldSBK with Moriwaki and Althea

HRC Returns to Factory Team in WorldSBK with Moriwaki and Althea
The Red Bull Honda team will now have full HRC backing as they attempt to right the wrongs of the recent past in WorldSBK.

They will be different from Repsol Honda in MotoGP but will benefit from direct Honda and HRC inputs, which the very recently former WorldSBK squad Ten Kate Racing had been hoping for behind the scenes over several seasons.

Ten Kate Racing, who have run Honda Europe’s WorldSBK program since soon after the official exit of the HRC-supported Castrol Honda team in WorldSBK (in the post-Colin Edwards’ era, basically), has no place in Honda’s plans, it appears.

Multiple World Champions in WorldSSP racing, Ten Kate also won the WorldSBK title in 2007 with James Toseland, but no Honda rider has won a race in WorldSBK since Nicky Hayden in 2016. The previous Honda win was way back in 2014, for none other than the current four-in-a-row champion for Kawasaki, Jonathan Rea.

With Honda struggling to find success in most areas of CBR1000RR racing they compete in currently, most notably the hugely-important Suzuka 8 Hours race that they used to dominate, it seems WorldSBK will be the main hub of Honda’s overall Superbike development wheel—hence the new Althea/Moriwaki partnership.

The rider choice is obvious enough for Red Bull Honda rider Camier (32)—although he has not yet won a full WorldSBK race—but the 36-year-old Ryuichi Kiyonari seems a strange option at first when 2018 podium riders such as Eugene Laverty, Marco Melandri, and Xavi Fores are without a top ride.

‘Kiyo’s’ presence is possibly the biggest indicator of just how direct an HRC effort it will be in 2019, as he has been a central part of Honda’s full factory era in BSB (in which he won three titles between 2006 and 2010) and when he was a Hannspree Ten Kate Racing WorldSBK rider in 2008, when he won three WorldSBK races. In 2018, Kiyonari has been racing for Moriwaki Honda in the Japanese Championship, so in at least one way he offers native language feedback and continuity for Moriwaki as they take on a new joint venture with Althea in WorldSBK.

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Gordon Ritchie | World Superbike Editor You may not understand Ritchie and his Scottish accent if you had him on the phone, but you can definitely understand what he writes as our World Superbike editor.