Kawasaki has ushered in a new era for its WorldSBK program, as the Japanese brand continues to be the team to beat.
For 2019, the Provec Racing run operation has cut ties with Tom Sykes and brought Leon Haslam back to the world stage to partner Jonathan Rea.
After four years of tension spilling over in the garage between two world champions, there is a hope that Haslam – the reigning British Superbike champion – can finally bring harmony between both sides of the garage.
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.
Three factories and eight WorldSBK riders turned up at Jerez on Monday, Ducati bringing their brand new Panigale V4R, but at the end, Jonathan Rea was fastest. Plus ça change.
All eyes were on the Ducati garage, and Alvaro Bautista’s first day on the Panigale V4 R. “First day at school” was how the Spaniard characterized it, taking some time to adapt to the bike. It was quite a switch from the Desmosedici he had been riding in MotoGP, the bike having a lot less power.
But, the V4 engine still has plenty, rival teams complaining that the Ducati was 10km/h faster than the others at the Aragon test. Here, the difference was less, but the Panigale was still clearly quicker than the rivals.
An indomitable force, a monumental achievement, and an impressive legacy – these are all apt phrases to describe Jonathan Rea’s 2018 season, as he clinched another WorldSBK Championship victory this weekend.
Now the winningest rider ever in World Superbike history, Rea becomes the second rider ever to win four WorldSBK Championship titles in total, and the first to win four titles in a row.
Onboard the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR, Rea has been the benchmark at virtually every superbike round this season, with the rest of the field having to play catch-up each time he comes onto the race track.
The final European round of the WorldSBK season sees Magny-Cours play host to Jonathan Rea’s first attempt to make history by winning a fourth consecutive championship.
The Northern Irishman is on the cusp of history, and he clinched the title here 12 months ago.
Episode 81 of the Paddock Pass Podcast is out, and in it we see Steve English and Jensen Beeler on the mics, as they talk a little bit more World Superbike action, before the season returns from its nearly two-month long summer break.
In the show, the boys talk about some of the big stories going on in the World Superbike Championship right now, and we chased down a number of riders to get their perspective, while at the Laguna Seca round.
As such, the show includes interviews with Tom Sykes, Alex Lowes, Eugene Laverty, Jake Gagne, and Jonathan Rea. The topics cover things like the rider silly season, the new rules for the year and how they’ve affected the race results, and how to improve “the show” in WorldSBK.
Of course the show is full of behind-the-scenes insights and analysis, which should be a welcomed resource for both seasoned World Superbike followers, and those who have missed many of the season’s races.
As always, be sure to follow the Paddock Pass Podcast on Facebook, Twitter and subscribe to the show on iTunes and SoundCloud – we even have an RSS feed for you. If you like the show, we would really appreciate you giving it a review on iTunes. Thanks for listening!
For the 2019 World Superbike Championship season, we will see Leon Haslam lining up alongside teammate Jonathan Rea in the factory-backed Kawasaki Racing Team.
The announcement became officially official today, but it has been a long time coming from Kawasaki. Parting ways with Tom Sykes earlier this month, Haslam’s signing has been rumored in the WorldSBK paddock for many weeks now.
Not exactly the best kept secret in the WorldSBK paddock, but now Tom Sykes and the Kawasaki Racing Team will officially part ways at the end of the 2018 World Superbike Championship season.
The news has been a long-time coming for Sykes, as he has been increasingly more hostile towards Kawasaki over the past few months in interviews. With KRT clearly taking the side of Jonathan Rea, signing him to a new two-year contract, Sykes has been left to look for a new home.
Where that home will be though is of considerable speculation.
Jonathan Rea may have done the double at the Italian circuit, but WorldSBK was in rude health last weekend. Continue reading for Asphalt & Rubber’s World Superbike debrief, from Misano Italy.
With Jonathan Rea’s future firmly set at the Kawasaki Racing Team, the focus this past weekend at Laguna Seca was on the future of his teammate, Tom Sykes.
The Yorkshire man had spared few words in the media for his team and teammate in the days ahead of the California round, and he certainly wasn’t holding too much back once he was at Laguna Seca.
You could almost smell the smoke emanating from Sykes, a result of the bridge that was being burned behind him.
Sykes is 99.9% not riding with Kawasaki for the 2019 World Superbike Championship season, and he finds himself as one of the top picks in the paddock in the rider market.