It has been a long winter of waiting for Loris Baz. For a long time, it looked like the Frenchman would not have a full time ride for 2019, but on Tuesday, at the press conference presenting the Dutch round of WorldSBK at Assen, the Ten Kate squad announced they would be making a return to World Superbikes, racing a Yamaha R1, with Loris Baz at the helm.
Baz had been in contact with the Ten Kate squad for a while, and had decided to wait for the team to take shape. He had spent his time training hard, often riding in the snow, as well as occasionally helping other teams where the needed it.
"Already at the end of last season we took the decision, my manager and the guys around me, to only race if we could have a package to be fighting at the front," Baz said. "I didn't want to have another season like year but we couldn't find anything in WorldSBK so we looked in MotoAmerica, in BSB and other places."
The discussions with Ten Kate team managers Ronald ten Kate and Kervin Bos had persuaded Baz that it would be worth waiting. "When we started to talk to Ronald and Kervin it made us think that we should wait and see if anything can happen with them. We were told by Ten Kate that if the project would happen it would only happen with the right package. It was a long time waiting for it to happen but finally it's cool! It's worth it."
All about the package
For Baz, it was the complete package of bike and team which had convinced him this was a project worth joining. "The package is everything," he said. "Unfortunately this is a sport where you need everything to perform. You can give the best bike to the best rider but if he's in a bad team it won't work. You can give a fantastic team a bad bike and it won't work. A perfect bike, a perfect team and a bad rider won't work either!"
Ten Kate Racing will be making a return to the WorldSBK paddock. At either Imola or Jerez, the Dutch squad will be racing a Yamaha YZF-R1 with Loris Baz. With still some testing and development left to do, racing at Imola in early May is a tough challenge, but Ten Kate will definitely be racing at the Jerez round of WorldSBK to be held from 7th – 9th of June.
The switch to Yamaha is a dramatic break with the past for Ten Kate. The team grew out of a Honda dealership in Nieuwleusen, 45km south of Assen, and went on to win multiple championships in both the World Supersport and World Superbike categories. But on 30th October last year, Ten Kate were told at a meeting in Amsterdam that Honda would not be continuing with the team, but had chosen to partner with Althea and Moriwaki instead.
With Pol Espargaro ruled out of this weekend's British Grand Prix, Loris Baz will fill the void at KTM. With replacement riders once again in the MotoGP news, how does it feel to jump onto a MotoGP bike?
“It was like I'd never ridden a motorbike before,” is Leon Camier’s review on his MotoGP debut when he deputized for Nicky Hayden in 2014. With such a steep learning curve, what can you gain by jumping on a MotoGP bike for one weekend? It's a hiding to nothing according to many, but as Camier attests, world class riders can get up to speed quickly.
“It's tough mentally and it was draining to try to learn so much in such a short space of time. Understanding the tires was the biggest thing to learn because the brakes are quite normal; they stop the bike when you pull the lever! The tires take time to get the most out of them. You'll figure out how to get the most from them for one lap pretty quickly, but understanding them for a race takes longer.”
For most riders age is just a number, but for Loris Baz it's also a virtue. Despite already having six years' experience in world championship racing, the Frenchman returns to WorldSBK as one of the youngest riders in the field
When Loris Baz first raced in WorldSBK he was one of the rawest prospects on the grid. For Pere Riba, his former crew chief, he was a rough diamond that could be molded into a star. Three years working with the Spaniard turned Baz into a race winner. Three years in MotoGP turned him into a much more complete package, and returning to WorldSBK for 2018 Baz feels primed to show his true potential.
“When you ride with the best guys in the world in MotoGP on a bike that's a bit older you improve a lot,” reflected Baz. “You are always trying to find solutions and find some extra speed. That experience from MotoGP has definitely made me a much better rider and if I had this experience when I was racing in WorldSBK I would have been winning races.
Press releases from the Aprilia and Althea teams after the first two days of testing at Jerez:
Milwaukee Aprilia begin 2018 preparations at Jerez test
Loris Baz has signed to race for the Althea Ducati team in WorldSBK in 2018. The team issued the following press release announcing the deal:
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after the final thrilling race of the 2017 season:
Dani Pedrosa scores great win in Valencia, Marc Marquez 2017 WORLD CHAMPION
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Michelin previewing the final round of the year at Valencia: