TeamByTeam WSBK Preview: Kawasaki Racing Team

With the reigning constructor’s champions are fielding the top 2 riders from last season’s standings, they look the dominant force which has led them to win 3 out of the last 4 championships, and finish in the top 2 in the last 5.

The bike itself will be developed version of the all new-all conquering ZX10-R that was unveiled last season at Phillip Island. Immediately quick out of the blocks, it took the first 4 race victories of the championship before going on to take a staggering 14 race wins in total. That’s not to mention 6 ‘doubles’ and 10 pole positions.

The question is however: can the bike improve even more than last season. The answer looking on paper is obviously yes, but just how do you do it and what are the issues. One of the more prominent issues in the team’s 2016 campaign was downshifting, when Jonathan Rea suffered issues at both Laguna Seca and the Lausitzring which led to subsequent DNFs. Kawasaki have been working hard to try and conjure up a solution, and I wouldn’t put it past them if they have the problems sorted for 2017. Away from WSBK, the new Ninja ZX10-R had a good run out in other championships, with Leon Haslam finishing runner-up in the British Superbike championship and Kazuki Watanabe taking podiums on his way to 6th in the All Japan Road Race Championship.

But what about the line-up that the team has aboard the machines? Jonathan Rea has proven that 2015 was no fluke (we didn’t think it was anyway) and backed it up with his 2nd championship in 2016. Although far less dominant than in 2015, Rea led the series from lights-out in Australia to the chequered flag in Qatar and will be wanting to repeat that in 2017. Throughout the season, the reigning double champion took nine wins and two pole positions, as well as six fastest laps. No one has ever taken three championship wins in consecutive seasons, but if anyone can, then Rea is your man.

Trying to put an end to the Rea onslaught is his teammate-turned-rival Tom Sykes, who was assisted to 2nd in the championship in 2016 by Rea in Qatar. Having stamped his authority on the title by beating Rea in a head to head thriller in Thailand, Sykes failed to put in a convincing title bid, and whilst closing in on Rea at Laguna Seca and again in race one at the Lausitzring, a crash in race two effectively gifted the Ulsterman a 2nd championship trophy. The former champion and three-time runner-up will be looking to beat Rea once and for all in 2017. The Hudderfielder will want to build on the solid foundations he set up on the new bike last season and go one step further in the upcoming season. 5 wins and 20 podiums in 2016 was a great season, but it will take more top step podium finishes for Sykes to level with his teammate on the title front.

And the circuits? Not a problem. The current Kawasaki team has taken victories at all circuits apart from Losail, but they’ll hope to have yet another riders and constructors title in the bag come that time in October. Data shows that Magny Cours and Losail have been difficult tracks for them, and for Sykes, he never goes particularly well at Phillip Island.

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Kiko Giles @MotoGPKiko

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