The 44-year-old from Kagoshima isn’t just ‘making up the numbers’ either, so far this season he’s finished on the podium at the JSB (All Japan Road Race Championship) and will be partnering Leon Haslam on the factory backed Ninja ZX-10R at the legendary Suzuka Eight Hour.
“I still have exactly the same commitment as when I started as a youngster. I am now 44 but my passion remains even after many years of racing at the top level in WSBK and all Japan Championship. I love racing – it’s as simple as that.
“In 1997 Austria at the A-1 ring is perhaps my proudest moment, it was my maiden win in WSBK and I became the first Japanese rider ever to win a World Superbike race outside Japan. I also won at Sugo later that year and came fourth overall.
“In terms of career lows nothing is worse than my crash at Laguna Seca in 1998. It was a big event and I was in a serious condition. I was giving 100% to my racing at the time and did not spare a thought for other things in life.
“When I recovered that turned into something positive, an appreciation of everything I have around me not just racing.
“It’s funny, people say that I am a Kawasaki legend but honestly don’t see it like that. I won many races but I really wanted to be WSBK Champion.
“Even with this though, I would not say the word legend. Better to say I am always trying to get better, always trying for another win!”
Photo courtesy Kawasaki Europe
Find BikesportNZ.com on FACEBOOK here