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Watanabe back in EWC as newcomer Team Étoile completes line-up

Watanabe Back In Ewc As Newcomer Team Étoile Completes Line-upRookie squad Team Étoile has recruited FIM Endurance World Championship podium finisher Kazuki Watanabe for its maiden EWC campaign.

The 33-year-old one-time MotoGP racer from Japan will contest the three European rounds of the Superstock-based FIM Endurance World Cup on Team Étoile’s BMW M1000RR equipped with Dunlop tyres, the exclusive supplier to the Superstock division.

Under the guidance of Team Principal Takashi Ichikawa, Team Étoile, which has put in place a 10-year plan to reach the top in the EWC, has also finalised its rider line-up for the season-opening 24 Heures Motos from 18-21 April.

With Hikari Okubo – who was announced as a Team Étoile rider along with Yudai Kamei last December – unavailable due to his clashing commitments in the FIM Supersport World Championship, Kyosuke Okuda will join Kamei and Watanabe at Le Mans. Rising talent Shogo Kawasaki, who brings experience from the Italian SS600 category, has been nominated as the outfit’s fourth rider for the first event of the year and the season-deciding Bol d’Or.

“It’s an honour to be asked to be a new member of this new team,”said Watanabe, who finished ninth overall in last season’s 24 Heures Motos. “To be honest, it was unclear that I would perform as a pro-racing rider, so I appreciate Team Principal Ichikawa for this chance.

“I feel the passion from the team concept to be the winning team in EWC with 10 years planning. I’m seeking chances to give feedback based on my experience to the team and hoping that the team will find the way to get to the top. For now, though, I will purely enjoy riding in the 24 Heures Motos.”

Watanabe Back In Ewc As Newcomer Team Étoile Completes Line-upTeam Principal Takashi Ichikawa said:“Since this team has been started from scratch, we had to start from zero with the preparation of the bikes and the shipping of goods to France. In the middle of February, finally the team had done the preparation for the first practice session and five riders gathered together. With uncountable support from everyone and with the effort of the team staff, soon we will visit France with all things we need for the race. At the end of March, it’s scheduled to proceed with the bike setting up with recently joined riders Watanabe, Okuda, Kawasaki and Kamei.”

Okubo said:”The riders, mechanics and staff are all here finally and I’m excited about the situation. We have experienced riders in the team, I’m already seeing the good result with our solid work in the upcoming race. Unfortunately, it’s not possible for me to participate in Le Mans, but I have a lot of experience in Le Mans, so I hope it can contribute to building a better bike for the team.”

Kamei said:”BMW, Dunlop tyres and the Le Mans track are the unknown things in my career. It will be so challenging, but it actually sounds fun. I already have a balanced feeling from the M1000RR on the first ride last December. It’s my first attempt at this 24-hour race though I’ve never failed in the Suzuka 8 Hours before. I believe we can do a good result with a steady ride from our fast riders. To make this possible, I’ll increase my pace in the official test to keep a solid 80 per cent pace in the race.”

Okuda said:“I’m keen on catching up with both Watanabe and Kamei since they are top-ranking riders of the JSB1000 class [in Japan]. It will be my first ride in Le Mans, I’ll try to capture how from my team-mates and my goal is to be as quick as them in the average laps.”

Kawasaki said:“I’m happy to join for the 24 Heures and Bol d’Or as the fourth rider. My mission is to establish the understanding of 1000cc bikes from my team-mates. I hope this chance will be the trigger of my career. I appreciate this offer and will try my best for the team.”

Team Étoile is planning to test on the Circuit Bugatti at Le Mans for the first time on 25 March ahead of the Le Mans Pre-Test from 2-3 April.

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