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.
“When I left WorldSBK in 2014 I was already fighting at the front in every race and I've only gotten better since then. Obviously the class has also changed since I was last racing in WorldSBK and it's clear that Johnny and Chaz are riding really well but they were already great riders in 2014. I definitely think that I can fight with them in the future.”
Baz Battles Beemers
Fighting for wins and podiums won't come easy for Baz in 2018. With the Althea continuing to use the BMW S1000RR Baz will face the unenviable task of trying to get the most out of a notoriously difficult package. The German marque hasn't had a podium finish since 2013, but Baz feels that it has some potential.
“The base of the BMW is actually quite good. I think that everyone wants the Kawasaki or Ducati because they're in front, but the BMW can definitely get closer to them. We know that we've got a lot of work to do and we could do with some help from BMW to do this. The front end of this bike feels good though and straight away in November it gave me confidence. The electronics are the biggest area that we can improve on.”
Electronics have always been the bugbear of this machine. The operating window is very narrow but when it finds the sweet spot the bike can certainly surprise. One of the biggest surprises for the Althea team came early in the negotiation period when the team realized that despite his experience, Baz has only just turned 25 years old.
“It was funny when I started talking to Genesio Bevilacqua and Althea because he was surprised that I wasn't 27 or 28! I'm still young and to have three years' experience in both Superbike and MotoGP is really important, and the experience that comes from racing at that level is important for this year. I always said when I went to MotoGP that there'd be time for me to come back to WorldSBK and still be able to win.
“Winning is the ultimate target but for this year though is just to close the gap to the front. Last year the gap from Kawasaki to BMW was too big. As the only BMW rider on the grid my feedback will be even more important that usual for improving the bike. I want us to get on the podium this year and to be in the top five in Australia. Winning races is the goal but you need to take things step by step throughout the season.”
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