Kawasaki

Gordon Ritchie WorldSBK Blog: Choose Your (WorldSBK) Weapon

It has been said before, and I will say it again, it is a welcome feat of logistics and determination that there is a 2020 WorldSBK season going on, and a near miracle that we media types are allowed in to cover it from inside. Thank you to all involved, without exception.

Given my shockingly bad air travel experiences at the first two ‘season comeback’ rounds in Jerez and Portimao, my media enterprises empire (a laptop and the soft machine that thumps its keyboard) quite literally set sail for the rest of the championship, by motorcycle. Which is fair enough, as I am covering a championship that is indeed based on production-derived motorcycles.

Somewhere between the Picos de Europa mountains of Asturias and the swimming pools of Calpe near Valencia - and exactly between the Teruel and Catalunya rounds in chronological terms - my mind was distracted from a heat-induced intermittent loss of friction between throttle grip and throttle barrel by thoughts of a much more extreme version of the real road bike scenario; WorldSBK racing.

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Teruel WorldSBK: Jonathan Rea Grinds Down The Opposition

Jonathan Rea & Michael Ruben Rinaldi at Aragon - Photo credit WorldSBK
Jonathan Rea leads Michael Ruben Rinaldi into Turn 1 at Aragon - Photo WorldSBK

Jonathan Rea just keeps ticking boxes in his title defence. Another weekend and another victory, but crucially also another three podium finishes. Consistency wins championships, and in the history of the Superbike World Championship he has no equal in this regard.

Motorland Aragon was a case in point. With back-to-back rounds at the Spanish circuit, this was a prime opportunity for his rivals to take points away from him. Instead Rea extended his title lead to 34 points by a mixture of risk-taking on track and conservative strategy in the garage.

Aragon is historically Ducati territory. The long straight clearly plays to the strength of the Panigale V4R, its horsepowers. When riding on board with Rea throughout the race weekend we could see where his bike excels: through Turn 10 on the edge of the tyre with the throttle pinned and the rear sliding but still able to find drive grip. There’s more than one way to skin a cat, but giving up so much acceleration on the straights meant the Kawasaki rider had to push incredibly hard everywhere else.

Lessons learned

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Gordon Ritchie WorldSBK Blog: Privateers Progress

As far as seasons go, the 2020 WorldSBK version will be a short one. Even after three down and five to go in terms of full rounds, there have still been enough changes of fortune and unusual happenings to make for more than enough talking points.

First of all we had the usual wildfowl-dodging opener in Australia. Three different race winners, including two riders who had just signed with new manufacturers (Toprak Razgatlioglu on a Pata Yamaha, Alex Lowes for KRT), plus one old hand showing his mettle and a very human mistake on what was a testing weekend in many ways (KRT fixture Jonathan Rea). Then we – finally - came back to action in the scalding paella pan that was Jerez in very late July.

Scott Redding and Ducati built two winning extension and one runner-up mezzanine at Jerez atop their three podium foundations from Oz. Rea won the short race again though, and in some style considering how he could not get close to Redding in the long races. And then there was also a mystery rear-grip drop off for the five-time champion in race two, an unwelcome trek back down one of WorldSBK’s dimly-lit and seemingly sealed-off back alleys.

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Misano Private Test: Oliveira Fastest After Two Days, Aprilia And Ducati Test New Aero

It has been a busy couple of days at Misano, with the KTM and Aprilia MotoGP teams, and test teams from Suzuki and Ducati, joined by WorldSBK representatives from the KRT Kawasaki squad, and a small army of Ducati teams. The MotoGP and WorldSBK riders have been able to try out the new asphalt at Misano in the blistering heat of an Italian summer.

Miguel Oliviera is fastest after the first two days, the Red Bull Tech3 rider just a couple of tenths faster on Wednesday than Pol Espargaro had been on Tuesday. Oliveira's best time of 1'32.9 is two thirds of a second off Maverick Viñales' pole time set last September, two tenths off the outright race lap record set by Andrea Dovizioso in 2018, and 1.3 seconds slower than Jorge Lorenzo's pole record from the same year.

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MotoGP And WorldSBK Back On Track: Three Days Of Testing At Misano

World championship motorcycle racing takes another step back to the season returning at Misano. The next three days sees both MotoGP and WorldSBK teams testing at the Italian circuit, preparing for the resumption of hostilities at Jerez in July and August.

Present are the MotoGP teams of KTM and Aprilia, allowed extra testing due to their status as concessions teams. Aleix Espargaro and Bradley Smith are riding for Aprilia, the second test for the Italian factory. Espargaro was forced to miss the first test, unable to travel to Misano, and so waited for this test to get back on track, as he explained to Tammy Gorali in an interview a week ago. He joins Bradley Smith, promoted from test rider to permanent rider for 2020, to replace Andrea Iannone, still suspended after a positive doping test.

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Jonathan Rea Signs 'Multi-Year' Contract Extension With Kawasaki

The Kawasaki WorldSBK team has its line up set for the 2021 season. After signing 2020 championship leader Alex Lowes to another year back in May, Kawasaki signed a new multi-year deal with reigning champion Jonathan Rea.

The press release is short on detail as to how many years the contract is valid for, and as such, for how long Rea intends to continue racing. But it seems unlikely that Rea will in the next couple of years. The contract could also cover the period past the end of his racing career: as the most successful WorldSBK rider in history, Jonathan Rea will be a valuable marketing asset for Kawasaki for many years to come. Some form of ambassadorship will likely have been agreed between Kawasaki and Rea.

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Gossip Moves The Market: How Rider Managers Maximise Earnings

Picture the scene. The sun is setting over the hills that surround the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. The day has been fierce and the weekend is only going to get hotter. Keeping a cool head, keeping your eyes on the prize will be crucial but all you can hear is talk of chatter.

Chatter is a paddock keyword. You hear about it all the time. You hear it a lot more in June because this isn’t chatter on the bike. It’s chatter inside the paddock.

Rumours become fact very quickly in the MotoGP and WorldSBK paddocks. All it takes is a chance photograph for a story to suddenly have legs and suddenly half the paddock is running around and chasing their tails looking for quotes and concrete information.

The rider market. The silly season. The rumour mill. The fools errand. Trying to keep abreast of the market is an important part of paddock life. Rumours are currency and having good sources gives you a lot of information to trade with people. Trying to report it? If you’re hitting more than you're missing it’s a very good batting average, and people remember the wild swings more than the home runs.

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