One of the legends of superbike racing, Noriyuki Haga returns to his spiritual home for the 2005 season.
Haga was a mainstay of Yamaha's factory world superbike team between 1997 and 2000. For many people the Japanese star isn't just a Yamaha world superbike rider, he is the Yamaha world superbike rider.
The Samurai of Slide, aka Nitro Nori, rode into superbike at a time when the series was challenging GPs for popularity and added another dimension to an already personality packed paddock. Nori-chan made his debut as a wild-card at Sugo in 1996 and made an immediate impact by finishing second. He was drafted into the factory team as a replacement for the injured Colin Edwards at the end of 1997 and was a permanent fixture until the programme ended in 2000. Three wins at the start of the 1998 campaign turned him into the fans' favourite and Haga became the first Japanese rider to gain a worldwide audience. Fans loved the way he would throw the YZF750 sideways into the corner, but just as much they loved his carefree attitude to life.
When Yamaha withdrew from world championship superbike racing at the end of 2000, Yamaha offered Haga a switch to Grands Prix. However, after a year of mixed results Noriyuki decided to move back to his beloved Superbike World Championship, finishing the year fourth on a factory Aprilia. When Aprilia also withdrew from the series, Haga found himself back in MotoGP - finishing the year 14th on an underdeveloped bike.
Last year Nori returned to the Superbike World Championship and rode a privately-entered Ducati to six wins, confirming his status as one of the championship's top stars by finishing third in the series - bettered only by the Italian manufacturer's factory entrants.
With this sort of form, it was little wonder that Haga was approached to race the R1 on Yamaha's return to the series. Not only is the Haga/Yamaha partnership hugely popular, the 30-year-old from Aichi is the company's most successful superbike racer of all time with a total of 11 wins on Yamahas and a best championship position of second in 2000.
Despite missing much of the early testing due to contractual reasons, Haga is confident that he can adapt to his sixth different motorcycle in as many seasons. With many of the Yamaha Motor Italia team's technicians having worked with Noriyuki in the past, the team is more than familiar with his spectacular riding style and sometimes machine settings and are looking forward to welcoming such a popular figure back into their family.
Now married with two children, off-track Haga has matured from the raw, carefree youngster who set the world alight in 1996. But on the track Nitro Nori remains pure dynamite and as determined as ever to shake off the tag of the best rider never to win the Superbike World Championship.
Date of birth: 02.03.1975
Place of birth: Aichi, Japan
Height: 168 cm
Weight: 65 kg
Marital status: Married with two sons
Hobbies: Snowboarding and riding his Waverunner
Team: Yamaha Motor Italia Team
Bike: Yamaha YZF-R1
Races contested in total: 132
First race: 1980
Victories in total: 17
Pole positions: 2
Championship wins: 0
2005: Yamaha Motor Italia Team, World Superbike Championship
2004: 3rd, World Superbike Championship
2003: 14th, MotoGP World Championship
2002: 2nd, World Superbike Championship
2001: 14th, 500CC World Championship
2000: 2nd, World Superbike Championship
1999: 7th, World Superbike Championship
1998: 6th, World Superbike Championship
1997: All Japan Superbike Champion, 13th, World Superbike Championship
1996: 8th, All Japan Superbike Champion, Won Suzuki 8-Hour (with Colin Edwards)
1995: 10th, All Japan Superbike Champion
1994: 9th, All Japan Superbike Champion
li> 1993: 13th, All Japan 250cc Championship