The Honda Superbike Challenge Program is Honda Motor Company’s latest venture, which aims to give national level racers the leg up they need to take the next steps in their careers. It’s just been announced that, as part of this program, 22 year old Japanese rider, Ryo Mizuno, has signed on Honda’s dotted line to compete in the British Superbike Championship in 2021 for Havier Beltran’s Honda UK Racing team. Joining him will be Glenn Irwin, who’ll start his second season aboard the CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP Superbike, and Tom Neave who will once again ride the stocker for the Louth-based outfit.
Don’t worry if you haven’t heard of Ryo Mizuno (not many people have) but by all accounts, he knows how to pedal a bike round. He’s raced in the Suzuka 8 Hours, and he’s won both the All-Japan J-GP3 (a bit like Moto3) and All-Japan J-GP2 (a bit like Moto2) championships, so he’s obviously half handy. He said he is “really looking forward to the new challenge” and that he “can’t wait to get started”, which I know isn’t particularly inspirational, but I think we can let him off on this occasion. He’s probably scared shitless; the thought of arriving from Japan and heading straight to Skegness is enough to scare anyone.
Mizuno will no doubt be hoping to pick the brains of his Honda team-mate, Glenn Irwin, who rode his ‘Blade to victory at Snetterton, and stuck it on the podium on five more occasions last year. I expect the Irishman will have to speak very slowly if Mizuno-san is to stand half a chance of understanding a word he’s saying. Irwin reckons their continued development is only going to improve their package “but there wont be any room for complacency”.
Tom Neave will once again be piloting the stocker in the National Superstock 1000 Championship. In 2020, the Lincolnshire lad won four races and just missed out on the championship, so he’ll be keen to make amends this year, and hopefully earn his place on the superbike for 2022. It’s good to see big Honda (Honda Motor Co. Ltd) and little Honda (Honda UK Racing Team) working closely together again. I’ve got a feeling good things are going to happen because of it. And I’ve also got a feeling that BSB’s ‘new kid’ is going to turn a few heads. The last time Honda shipped a Japanese rider over to have a go at BSB, his name was Ryuichi Kiyonari. He did alright, didn’t he?