Ryuichi Kiyonari remains one of the sport’s biggest enigmas – a three-time Bennetts British Superbike champion, who on his day would be undefeated. ‘King Kiyo’ soon became the first Japanese rider to celebrate title victory, before he went on to become a three-time champion in BSB.
Kiyo started racing in his native Japan, winning multiple titles before he appeared with wildcard appearances in both MotoGP and the World Supersport Championship.
His first appearance in BSB came in 2004 when he joined the HM Plant Honda team, finishing in sixth place in his debut season, which included winning performances despite having to get to grips with all-new circuits.
A season-long fight ensued the season after as Kiyonari went head-to-head with Gregorio Lavilla, finishing runner-up to his Spanish rival with the HM Plant Honda team, however a dominant display saw him win back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2007.
Kiyonari then joined the Ten Kate Honda team in the World Superbike Championship, in addition to victories at the Suzuka 8 Hour race, before he returned to BSB to celebrate title victory in 2010 with his familiar HM Plant Honda team.
In 2012 he was victorious in the Asia Road Racing Championship, returning to BSB in 2013. A switch to BMW a year later saw Kiyo again battle for title honours in the ‘War for Four’ against Shane 'Shakey' Byrne.
However, a crash in warm up at the final round left him with a broken collarbone and subsequently out of the action. He was able to claim second place in the standings, despite missing the final races of the season.
Kiyonari has since competed in the All Japan Superbike Championship, most recently finishing runner-up in 2020.