Another piece of the 2012 Silly Season puzzle has slotted into place, this time affecting both the World Superbike and MotoGP series. Hiroshi Aoyama is to leave the San Carlo Gresini MotoGP team and move over to World Superbikes with the Ten Kate Honda team. The move was widely expected, Aoyama having two options for next season, either switching to World Superbikes or staying with Gresini to ride their CRT entry for 2012. After intervention by Honda - who were subsidizing the 2009 250cc World Champion - Gresini had to alter their CRT plans, and Aoyama decided his chances were better in the World Superbike series.
Aoyama will line up alongside Johnny Rea at Ten Kate, though it is unclear whether Castrol will continue to be title sponsor for the team. With a new CBR1000RR to be introduced for 2012, featuring some important electronic upgrades, the Honda should be competitive next season, as demonstrated by Rea since the team were allowed to use a ride-by-wire system that had not been fitted to the bike. Aoyama faces the same period of adaptation that Max Biaggi, Carlos Checa and Marco Melandri did before him, but given the outstanding results those former MotoGP riders have had, the Japanese rider should do well.
Below are the official press releases from Honda and from the San Carlo Gresini team:
Hiroshi Aoyama with Honda World Superbike for 2012
Honda Motor Europe and Ten Kate Racing have announced that its second rider for the 2012 World Superbike championship will be Hiroshi Aoyama from Japan.
Aoyama is currently competing in MotoGP with the San Carlo Honda Gresini team on a Honda RC212V. Before MotoGP, he rode in the 250cc Grand Prix series, taking a total of nine victories with 18 other podium finishes.
Aoyama was the last ever 250cc World Champion in 2009, before the series became Moto2. He rode a Honda RS250RW to victory with four wins during the season, beating rivals Hector Barbera, Marco Simoncelli and Alvaro Bautista to the coveted title.
The 29-year-old from Japan's Chiba prefecture began racing pocket bikes at the age of five and progressed through 125cc and 250cc All Japan championship racing before graduating to the 250cc Grand Prix series in 2004.
Aoyama has ridden on Honda machinery almost throughout his racing career and, despite having to learn some new circuits, says he is very much looking forward to continuing his association with Honda on the new CBR1000RR Fireblade in the 2012 World Superbike championship.
I have raced in MotoGP for the last couple of years and it has really been a great experience for me. I really want to thank Fausto Gresini and all the staff and technicians of Team San Carlo Honda Gresini for this extraordinary period in my career. Now I have the opportunity to go to World Superbike with Honda and Ten Kate Racing and I'm very excited about this new challenge. I don't know very much about Superbike but I really hope to make a good job together with my new team.
Ronald ten Kate - team manager
We are all thrilled about Hiroshi Aoyama joining us for what promises to be a really exciting 2012 World Superbike championship. He's coming to SBK at still quite a young age and the speed he has shown in the last couple of years in MotoGP is beyond question. We hope that, with a solid winter testing programme, we can make Hiroshi's transition to the new SBK-specification Fireblade as quick and easy as possible. Of course, we'd like to thank Ruben [Xaus] for his efforts this season and the team wishes him the very best for the future.
Carlo Fiorani - Superbike Racing Manager, Honda Motor Europe
Of course we are very excited to have Hiroshi Aoyama join our World Superbike team for next season. He grew up inside the Honda family and has gained a lot of experience at different levels. We are sure that he can bring that experience and a strong Honda spirit to the team. Honda Motor Europe has been looking for a dynamic and fast partner for Jonathan Rea and we are convinced that this combination is the best way to take us forward as we develop the new CBR1000RR Fireblade for 2012.
Hiroshi Aoyama - profile
Birthplace - Ichihara-shi, Chiba, Japan
Date of birth - October 25, 1981
Height - 165cm
Weight - 55kg
Interests - Motocross, Dirt track
1987 - Started Pocketbike racing
1995 - Started Minibike racing
1996 - Kanto District Minibike Champion
1997 - Kanto District Minibike Champion
1998 - 2nd - 125cc Tsukuba Championship
7th - 250cc Tsukuba Production Class
1999 - 11th - 125cc All Japan Championship - HONDA
2nd - 250cc All Japan Championship - HONDA
2001 - 8th - 250cc All Japan Championship - HONDA
2002 - 2nd - 250cc All Japan Championship - HONDA
2003 - 250cc All Japan Champion – HONDA
2004 - 6th - 250cc Grand Prix - HONDA
2005 - 4th - 250cc Grand Prix - HONDA
2006 - 4th - 250cc Grand Prix - KTM
2007 - 6th - 250cc Grand Prix - KTM
2008 - 7th - 250cc Grand Prix - KTM
2009 - 250cc Grand Prix World Champion - HONDA
2010 - 15th - MotoGP – HONDA
Hiroshi Aoyama will no longer be a Team San Carlo Honda Gresini rider in 2012. With three races remaining of the 2011 season the relationship between Hiroshi Aoyama and Team San Carlo Honda Gresini remains positive. Results such as his fourth place finish at Jerez have perhaps been a little too scarce but overall the season has been a satisfactory one for both parties.
Fausto Gresini "Our relationship with Hiroshi Aoyama is without doubt one of mutual respect and esteem and I hope that his time with Team San Carlo Honda Gresini has helped his career to grow in such a difficult category as MotoGP. Next season he will start a new adventure in World Superbikes . I would like to wish him all the very best and I hope he can find the determination and motivation to win."
Hiroshi Aoyama "Racing in MotoGP over the past two seasons has been a great experience for me. I want to give my sincere thanks to Fausto Gresini and all the staff and engineers at Team San Carlo Honda Gresini for this extraordinary period of my career, as well as all the other people in the MotoGP paddock who have helped and supported me. Now I head for a new challenge in a new championship – World Superbikes – where I hope I can do a really good job with my new team."