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Ryuichi Kiyonari

A Conversation with Ryuichi Kiyonari #23, Moriwaki Althea Honda Racing Team, MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship.
PHOTOGRAPHS BY STEVE PHIPPS • JULY 21, 2019 • PHOTOGRAPHS ON THIS PAGE ARE COPYRIGHT © FAMAMOCA LLC 2019 AND MAY NOT BE REPUBLISHED WITHOUT LICENSE

Ryuichi Kiyonari #23, Moriwaki Althea Honda Racing Team. Just out of Turn 11 at Laguna Seca during Sunday's Race 2.

Ryuichi Kiyonari is a four-time winner of the Suzuka 8 hours, and three-time British Superbike champion. In the BSB series, he tallied 96 podium appearances and 50 wins from 2004-2014. In the list of all-time winningest riders in the BSB series, he is second. The 2019 U.S. Round of the WorldSBK Championship is his first time riding Laguna Seca. We caught up with him after Friday's FP2, and got his impressions of the track so far.

Click here for a track map from RacingCircuits.info.

[Ryuichi Kiyonari] Everybody told me that the Corkscrew is the hardest part of Laguna Seca. But I don't think so. It is more Turn 1. This is my main problem, this corner. It is unbelievable how blind it is. I have experienced many different tracks. British tracks. Asian tracks. Japanese tracks. I have experienced many different kinds of tracks. But this? But I am getting better.

Also, Turn 2 is not so easy. 2 is like a double apex. And it looks like with each rider, with each bike, there is a different line, a different approach.

Turn 3, Turn 4, I am feeling good. But [the bike is] spinning a lot. It is like ... What?! It is like I am a learner, a beginner. Turn 1, Turn 2. [The bike is] spinning. Turn 3, Turn 4. Spinning. It's hard to find grip. If you don't push, it might be nice. If you push? More lean angle? More power? Amazing. Wow.

In the bottom of the Corkscrew, Turn 8A.

Then from Turn 5 to 11, the track is a different story. More on camber. More up and down. But it's completely different from 1 to 5.

And very left-handed. Turn 3 is right, Turn 4 is right. Then the track is very left-handed.

Yes. Turn 5, it looks like you can carry a lot more speed. But it's very important, if you go a little bit wide, maybe you can open but you have to wait, wait, wait [on the throttle]. This corner, the look and feeling is different. You have to keep the apex, then pick up and go. Otherwise you are spinning sideways. It is quite difficult. You can carry as much speed as you can, but then the exit is very bad. Maybe for 600cc or less, that small, maybe it's no problem. But superbike? You have to wait to pick up. And then you have grip, and you have rpm. And then you can go.

Do you wheelie out of 5?

A little bit here. I use second gear. Then third, a little bit less. Fourth, a little bit less. But this is not a big wheelie, where I am fighting the bike down.

Turn 6, for me, my first time here, it's difficult to find the timing. But I think even if you know the turn, how to hit the apex, it is still difficult to transfer power to the rear tire. You need to open [the throttle] quickly. Otherwise your speed is going down. You have to open quickly. I am not good here. Braking is okay. Turning is okay. But I am just a little bit too late [opening the throttle].

I am trying to figure out how to ride this corner. That's why in this sector I am not very fast. Maybe a little bit in the Corkscrew too, but more here. You need more speed. Also, if you are slow here, in Turn 6, then uphill you will be slow.

In the Corkscrew.

After Turn 6, it is nice. You see blue sky. Like ... Oh my God! Where am I going?!

Oh, yes. It's straight and it's uphill. From 6 to 7 is a long straight, uphill. The Rahal Straight.

It's not so difficult. Braking is fine. Then the Corkscrew, which is not too difficult.

By reputation, the Corkscrew is also quite blind?

No, not too bad. The curve is on your left side. And you keep the curve on your left side. Then kick over. And then you go into the Corkscrew. Until then, no problem. Then it's downhill. And the problem is that the machine feels light. There is less contact, less grip.

Then Turn 9 is fast. And how do you explain the g-force? How much you are [squatting down]?

Oh — because it flattens out. The entrance to 9 is downhill, and then the bottom of 9 is flat.

Wow. From pushing hard, the g-force. But you have to open the throttle. And the machine is turning but you must manage the turn quickly to keep your speed. You have to carry speed from 9 to 10 to 11.

From the exit of the Corkscrew, it's nice. Wow. Wow, into Turn 9. And you cannot stop. That's difficult. Also, you have to keep an inside line to approach Turn 10.

And then 10 is fast. 10 is quite simple. You come back outside and then go inside. And then after here, Turn 11, it's a long straight.

Ryuichi Kiyonari.

Arigatou.

Arigatou.

Sayōnara.

Sayōnara. See you! Thank you.

→ Go on to part 2 of the interview, a photo gallery.

Our thanks to Ryuichi Kiyonari. The interview was condensed, and edited for clarity.
Our thanks to Federica De Zottis at HRC; Brad Littlefield at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca; and Dorna WSBK.

Comments? Corrections? Drop us a line: Contact the author


Links and More Information:

Ryuichi Kiyonari

Moriwaki Althea Honda Team

MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship

WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca


*** Photographs on this page are Copyright © FAMAMOCA LLC 2019 and they may not be republished or reposted or shared on social media without license. ***

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