In 2016 Kawasaki and its official KRT squad won all the major titles on offer – for riders, manufacturers and team. The championship 1-2 for Rea and Sykes was the final part of the overall winning package for the Ninja ZX-10R. Remarkably, all this on-track success came in the first year of a new model, which was only launched a year ago.
The final race of the year got underway on schedule at 21.00 local time in Qatar and was planned for 17-laps. After an oil spill the red flags came out and the track had to be cleaned. A shorter 10-lap restart began almost 45 minutes after the first, and with full championship points issued.
Rea had run-on early in the first red-flagged race and was down in ninth on the grid for the restart instead of the pole position he had earned on Saturday. Sykes was second off the grid in the restart and harried eventual winner Chaz Davies, the only rider who could catch and pass Tom to take second in the points.
As Rea improved his pace and looked to win the final race of his second back-to-back championship season, he overtook Tom and closed in on the lead of Davies. Unable to catch and pass before the final flag he eased up and Sykes secured second place to maintain his overall second in the championship.
With both KRT riders on the podium their 2016 statistics grew again and made happy reading for rider and manufacturer alike. Rea, the 2015 and 2016 champion, has scored nine race wins this year, taken 23 podiums in 26 races, two pole positions and six fastest laps – including the new Losail lap record of 1’56.974, which he set on lap three today.
Sykes’ latest podium gives him 20 for the season, including five wins. He has earned eight more Superpole wins in 2016 and six fastest laps.
In the final Manufacturers’ Championship standings, Kawasaki has 582, 65 more than the nearest rival.
Jonathan Rea, stated: “I was trying to get to Chaz to win the first attempted race. When I started the bike felt good but when I approached turn one I could not shift gears as a sensor had failed so I ran-on. I lost places so the red flag saved me when it came out. The crew changed it really quickly for the restart and we made a step forward. Today I rode with my heart; rode like I can. In a ten-lap race, starting from ninth place, the maths did not stack up well! I got beaten-up in the first two corners and spent too long behind Leon Haslam and Tom. Chaz had a bit of a gap on me but I closed it right down. When I saw it was not possible to win I decided to work for the team and Kawasaki. We rode a really, really fast race here. A lap record, a pole position and a world championship came our way this weekend, so Qatar has been pretty good to me.”
Tom Sykes, stated: “To finish runner up has a better ring to it than third and Kawasaki has gone 1-2 in the Riders’ Championship this year. It was a strange weekend in some ways but finally in the first part of race two, which eventually got red-flagged, I was preparing for a longer race. I think our pace at the end could have also been quite good over 17-laps. In the restart to finally do some 1’57 laps was something unexpected. After Jonathan passed me he was closing in on Chaz but obviously when he looked at Chaz’s lap time he would have had to do something special to win. Jonathan has had two great seasons and he has been the man to beat. It was a very good gesture from the other side of the team and this is something that I appreciate so much.”
Guim Roda, Team Manager, stated: “This is the first year of the current model Ninja ZX-10R’s introduction and it has taken the Manufacturers’ title, plus first and second in the championship. Sometimes, there are in life bigger things than your own interests, and that makes life magic and exciting. Today it was possible, for the first time ever, for Kawasaki to finish first and second in the Riders’ Championship. Be sure next year the competition will be there again and Rea and Sykes will provide a big show to the world again. Congratulations to Tom and congratulations to Johnny – you give the team something we lost in the past.”
Steve Guttridge, Kawasaki Europe Racing Manager, stated: “We won the Manufacturers’ Championship, the Team Championship and had first and second places in the Riders’ Championship. I am absolutely delighted and the guys did a fantastic job this year again. They have stepped it up another level with the new Ninja ZX-10R.”
Leon Haslam (Pedercini Racing Team) made a remarkable charge in the final running of the ten lap second race, finishing fifth in his return to WorldSBK as a one-off rider. Roman Ramos (GoEleven Kawasaki) finished 14th in the race and in doing so also finished 14th in the final championship rankings.
Local rider Saeed Al Sulaiti (Pedercini Racing Kawasaki) was out of race two with a technical issue but Grillini Racing Kawasaki riders Gianluca Vizziello and Dominic Schmitter finished the ten-lap race 17th and 18th respectively.
Kiko Giles @MotoGPKiko