Kawasaki

2019 Phillip Island WorldSBK Test Round Up: Is The Ducati As Fast As It Looks?

Alvaro Bautista wrapped up testing in Phillip Island by dominating the time sheets in all four sessions. The Ducati rider has it all signed and sealed ahead of his WorldSBK debut this weekend. The top speed of the Ducati Panigale V4R is such that he’ll blow past everyone on the straight. Single-lap speed and top speed will make it an unbeatable package. After four years of Jonathan Rea and Kawasaki, dominance we’ve traded one era for another.

So goes the logic from some quarters of the WorldSBK paddock, but don’t run to the bookies to put the mortgage on Bautista. He’ll definitely start this weekend’s races as the favorite, and rightly so after his testing performances, but that’s the thing... that was testing. Racing is a very different beast and while the headlines from testing belong to the Spaniard, the Prosecco and the trophy might land somewhere else.

Phillip Island is a track tailor made for Bautista. Carrying corner speed and big lean angles mean that the long radius corners of the final sector are his ideal type of turn. Add to this the middle sector of the lap where you sweep from one side of the track to the other, and his accurate style always works well here; there’s a reason he was a contender for the MotoGP win last year.

Old dog, new tricks

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Jonathan Rea Interview: The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

Jonathan Rea has gotten the band back together in his attempt to win an unprecedented fifth WorldSBK title in 2019

You’re the man to beat until someone beats you, and Jonathan Rea is doing all he can to make sure his time at the top continues. While the four-time WorldSBK champion might reset his points at the start of every season, he doesn’t reset the core group of people around him. Crew chief Pere Riba, electronics specialist Davide Gentile, and mechanics Uri Pallares and Arturo Perez are all back together for a fifth season.

The goal remains the same for Rea in 2019: winning. But after rewriting the record books where does the motivation come from for the Northern Irishman? At the start of his Kawasaki tenure the motivation was clear – win a first title. Since than it’s been about staying on top and then the fear of losing was a force last year. For 2019 Rea seems relaxed and the motivation seems to be coming from a less cluttered life.

“My motivation hasn’t really changed,” said Rea. “I want to stay at the top. At one point last year I did panic that maybe my time was running out, but this year I feel like I can ride into the wave again and keep it going. When I found the right feeling with the bike last year I felt invincible. It wouldn’t have mattered if you brought a MotoGP bike to the track with the best rider in the world. I felt like I’d go out there and win.

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2019 WorldSBK Testing Round Up: Panigale A Work In Progress, Rea Dominant, Lowes One To Watch

Testing paints a picture but it’s never a complete one. It shows only what the artist wants you to see with their work in progress. The winter is a time to work through your program and do it at your own pace. This year that has been even more the case. With new bikes for Ducati and BMW there is plenty of change in the air of the World Superbike paddock, and after eight days of testing there are arguably more questions than answers.

The Ducati V4R was billed as the weapon to finally end Jonathan Rea’s dominance of WorldSBK. It was a MotoGP-derived bike that didn’t pull punches. It was one that broke cover over 12 months before its competitive debut. It was expected to be a honed creation from the outset. It was expected to be seamless. But instead, Ducati’s introduction of their new machine has run aground this winter.

Circumstances have worked against Ducati. Four days of testing in November were ruined by bad weather in Aragon, and then a bad track surface at Jerez that would need to be replaced. With a brand new surface at Jerez, it was dirty for the opening test of 2019. It took time to clean and it was almost impossible for riders to do long distance stints without excessive tire wear. Coming to Portimao it was hoped that Ducati could get some information on the new bike.

Hampering progress

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Gordon Ritchie WorldSBK Blog: The Missing Links

Whatever number of permanent WorldSBK entries Dorna had in mind for the 2019 season, you can bet it was not 18. Yet, to listen to some comments regarding this final number you might imagine that some global tragedy had occurred, rather than WorldSBK simply facing up to reality.

A reality created both by itself and the actions of others.

So why are there missing links in WorldSBK’s ideal drive chain length this year? Many reasons, but here are the biggies.

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Review: MotoGP Technology, By Neil Spalding

There are a few books which every MotoGP fan should have on their bookshelves. As many editions of Motocourse as you can afford, of course, for a review of each year, as it was seen at the time. Michael Scott's MotoGP, The Illustrated History, for a grand overview of the history of Grand Prix racing. Mat Oxley's Age of Superheroes, for a closer look at the previous golden age of GPs, if you can get your hands on a copy. And Rick Broadbent's Ring of Fire, a look at the heady days at the end of the 990cc era in MotoGP.

Neil Spalding's MotoGP Technology belongs in that list. Part history and part technical reference work, MotoGP Technology takes a detailed and in depth look, not just at the current batch of MotoGP bikes and how they work, but also why they work. It is, if you like, a work on the engineering theory behind the design of a racing motorcycle, but also a guide to how the manufacturers racing in MotoGP have put that theory into practice.

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2018 Jerez WorldSBK Test Tuesday Round Up: Rea Still Reigns, Ducati Makes Progress, Yamaha's Small Steps With The Rear

And so the season ends for WorldSBK. The weather finally behaved at Jerez, and the four WorldSBK teams and three WorldSSP teams got a full day of testing in at Jerez. Or rather, nearly a full day of testing: the track opened at 10am, but the riders didn't go out for about 45 minutes, as cold track temperatures made it a perilous undertaking in those early minutes. But the sun soon did its work, heated the asphalt, and away they went.

Heating the asphalt meant there was grip, but the surface is still in a bad way in several corners. Turns 1, 2, 6, and 8 are the worst, according to the riders. One seasoned rider spotter pointed out just how gracefully Jonathan Rea was riding around the holes in the tarmac, and still producing a really fast time. But it hadn't been as easy as Rea made it look.

"It’s wearing ruts in the short corners where everyone is using the same line and putting the power down, or pushing the front in it," Rea said on Tuesday night. "It’s lifting the asphalt up. It’s treacherous if you run over that. That’s the common racing line for track day users or normal racers. If you’re on the limit or really sharp you can stay just inside that, like pretty much on the white line. But even that, you compromise your line, especially in corner one, two, six… So the track’s in really bad condition so they’re doing right to resurface it."

Smoother on top

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