Newly-crowned Japanese Superbike Champion Atsushi Watanabe will race in the 2008 British Superbike Championship aboard a Suzuki GSX-R1000 prepared by Crescent.
The 31-year-old Yoshimura Suzuki rider from Hamamatsu, who also won the title in 2002, has been placed in BSB with a clear aim of winning the Championship.
Watanabe is learning the English language fast. He said: "I know BSB is an ultra-competitive Championship that requires high potential for riders and I have been keen on challenging there for long time to improve my riding skills.
"I am also excited to ride on UK circuits which are completely different from those in Japan. I believe this should be a great honour for my racing career and for those who have motivated me so much."Watanabe is already setting his sights high. "Of course, if you are a rider, your one goal is to be a champion in BSB. For the future I hope to have a chance to ride at World Superbike or MotoGP," he added.
He has been speaking to former Suzuki BSB racer and fans favourite WSB star Yukio Kagayama who has been enthusing him with what to expect - including the unique circuits, especially Cadwell Park. Excited at the prospect, Watanabe claims Britain holds a special place in his heart: "I am so happy to get a chance to ride in the UK where my hero Barry Sheene was from."
Rizla Suzuki Team Manager Jack Valentine said: "Atsushi Watanabe is one of the best kept secrets in Japan. Since 2002 he has won two and finished runner up twice in the Japanese Superbike Championship, marking him as one of the best.
"He is also a real-life Suzuki Factory rider, with all the benefits in communication with the Japanese racing arm that will bring. The placement of Atsushi in BSB shows just how important the Championship is to Suzuki and its intentions that it wants to reclaim the title it won in 2004.
"Already Atsushi is developing his character and I think the British public will take to him very easily. He is very respectful, honourable and professional - but at the same time he can't wait to sample the English way of life and start to enjoy himself here as Yukio has told him a lot of good things about our way of life. It's going to be fun helping him to learn the language and I am sure he will teach us some choice phrases in Japanese as well."
Watanabe is keen to meet the British race fans and will be attending the International Motorcycle Show at the NEC which opens to the public on November 23rd before returning to Japan and then testing the current Rizla Suzuki GSX-R1000.