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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.

Episode 89 of the Paddock Pass Podcast is out, and in it we see David Emmett, Steve English, and Jensen Beeler on the mics, as we cover the 2018 WorldSBK Championship season.

The conversation starts with the champions, Jonathan Rea and the Kawasaki Racing Team, and we discuss how this has become the wining package in the WorldSBK paddock, especially with the contrasting fortunes of Tom Sykes.

The discussion includes a short interview with Leon Haslam, as he got his leg over the KRT-spec superbike during the Jerez post-season test.

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. 

Over the course of 228 races, Tom Sykes made himself into a Kawasaki legend. It's easy to look at the last four years and to only see the success that Jonathan Rea has achieved on the green machine, but before 2010 the Japanese firm was struggling. Chris Walker's win in the wet at Assen was a bright spot that punctuated ten years of failure.

From the turn of the millennium, until Sykes joined, the team had three wins, a home double at Sugo in 2010 by wildcard rider Hitoyasu Izutsu and Walker's famous result. These weren't lean times for Kawasaki - this was a famine. With only 19 podiums in the ten years prior to his arrival, it's remarkable what the Englishman has achieved with the team.

“It’s the end of a great era,” reflected Sykes. “It’s been a great time, and I feel that we’ve done a great job together. We've all grown up a lot together. We had the chance to be three-times world champions and I’m very, very fortunate to be able to say that I’m a world champion.”

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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.

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 FacebookTwitter 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!

The 2018 Suzuka 8-Hours is in the books, and it was one to remember. In a lot of ways, this was Suzuka back in its heyday. Factory bikes, world-class riders, and a flat-out sprint race between the best of the best.

It was a shame that the weather interrupted what had looked set to be a classic 8-Hours. With Jonathan Rea hitting the deck in the treacherous conditions, it took a potential race-winner out of contention, and ended three and a half hours of toe-to-toe, bar-to-bar between Kawasaki and Yamaha.

For the first time since 2015, Yamaha was challenged, but Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark weren't rattled.

Prior to the race Van der Mark joked that “I don't get scared on a bike, I scare the others!” and on Sunday the two-time WorldSBK race-winner certainly wasn't scared of the reputation that Rea brings as a three-time world champion.

The Dutchman's opening stint was superb, and his fight with Rea was something unlike any seen we have at the 8-Hours in recent years. When they pitted, it was up to Lowes and Leon Haslam to continue the fight and that's exactly what happened.

Over the course of those opening hours, we were treated to the full spectacle of motorcycle racing, and it was everything it should be. With that in mind, here are some of the biggest talking points of the 2018 Suzuka 8 Hours.

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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.

Episode 76 of the Paddock Pass Podcast is out, and in it we mix things up. Recorded at the Laguna Seca WorldSBK round, on the mics are Steve English and Jensen Beeler, and the duo covers the World Superbike Championship season thus far.

The show is the first part of a two-part series look at the WorldSBK paddock, which is currently on a two-month summer break. 

Starting with the opening round at Phillip Island, we look at what has happened thus far in production racing. We then move to the WorldSBK silly season, as the rider market for next season is just starting to get interesting.

Lastly, we make some predictions for the rest of the season, and take some quick looks at what is to come for the 2019 season in terms of riders, teams, and machinery.

All in all, we think you will enjoy the show. It is packed with behind-the-scenes info on the World Superbike Championship, and insights from teams and riders in the paddock.

As always, be sure to follow the Paddock Pass Podcast on FacebookTwitter 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!