Yoshimura Suzuki's Atsushi Watanabe clinched the Japanese Superbike Championship at the seventh and final round at Suzuka at the weekend.
It was his second title, the first being in 2002, and the first for the Yoshimura team since Doug Polen raced to victory in the TT-F1 and TT-F3 championships in 1989. Suzuki GSX-R1000-mounted Watanabe won the opening round at Twinring Motegi and rode consistently throughout, winning two races and taking to the podium four times.
The final round was run over two races and Watanabe entered it with a 21-point advantage over Tatsuya Yamaguchi (Moriwaki Honda), who crashed on the opening lap of the first race. Watanabe took sixth position, which then left him with a 19-point advantage over new second-placed rider Takashi Yasuda (Harc Pro Honda) going into the final race of the season, where he rode to ninth - enough to lift the title.
Atsushi Watanabe, "I felt very happy to win my second Japanese SBK championship. It was a very difficult season and I struggled at times with the set up of the all-new Suzuki GSX-R1000. But my team staff did a wonderful job and made the machine excellent for the race.
I would like to say thank you for all my fans and my team staff. I've been with Yoshimura for five years and I'm very happy to win the title for them and hope to graduate from the Japanese Championship to a foreign series next year.