Yoshimoto Matsuda, the driving force behind Kawasaki’s WorldSBK effort, made his opinions clear about the new maximum engine rev regulations in WorldSBK at the official KRT squad’s recent launch in Spain.
Kawasaki has evidently been in opposition to the new rules, but mostly in the background until now. In Barcelona the opposition was verbalised and explained. Kawasaki’s Ninja ZX-10RR has fewer revs to play with at the very top end than any other manufacturer of 1000cc four-cylinder machinery at the start of the 2018 season. According to Matsuda-san, “This is a racing rule, I do not say regulation - it is a racing rule - to level up all manufacturers who take part in WorldSBK.”
He explained his opinion more fully. “Dorna has set an engine speed regulation. All four-cylinder bikes must be less than 14,700 - except Kawasaki - which is 14,100. That is 600 rpm less. This means we have a great handicap, because we have already understood that engine speed is key for a four-cylinder engine. And also there can be a 250rpm reduction after each three rounds. We must accept this. Our bike is now 1100 rpm slower than 2017, and in this condition we must work.”
Kawasaki has already tested their 14,100rpm engine, to great effect, but that is not where the story ends – potentially - according to the new rulebook.
Says Matsuda-san, “We have to prepare for another 250 rpm reduction. Reading the regulations we can have, over 12 races, a reduction of 750 rpm.” (That would come about if Kawasaki scores too many balancing points compared to their opponents, with calculations done after three rounds of the championship, then another three, and so on).
There is even a section in the new rules that states that the organisers can introduce rev drops, even of the ultimate performance on track does not trigger the new balancing rules. “That is not all,” said Matsuda-san, about what has been dubbed by the media as the ‘God Rule’. “If this team is becoming a victory team, Dorna can decide everything. This is a sports rule, a handicap rule. I do not think that we reduce; we must struggle to fight. Some other team may have to reduce, but I do not know, this is a Dorna decision.”
As it stands, however, Matsuda-san seemed keen to remind everybody that he feels Kawasaki has already taken a ‘hit’ before the season has even started. “When the ZX-10RR has the lowest rpm, then we are being challenged to be successful.”
Matsuda-san is obviously pleased with the winter test results of the lower revving, more torque based engine, but confirmed that they have not tested an engine below the current 14,100 rpm limit they start with in 2018. But they have geared for it, inside the engine cases, to an extent. “We have not tested one or two steps lower. Maybe we accept this first step reduction, so with this condition we have already calculated the gear number for all the race balances. Our rider is so fast, our team is so fast, and our machine is fast, so maybe we must accept a one step reduction, sooner or later. From the beginning the calculation was with this reduction.”
Discussions between Dorna, the FIM and the MSMA appear to be almost incessant, especially as there have been so many regulation and tech changes in the past few years, but Kawasaki is clearly frustrated by the latest developments in the rulebook. “Honestly we are so tired to speak about this with Dorna. But Dorna has adopted the rule, we cannot stop the rule, we cannot change. As an engineering company our goal is to overcome limitations constantly. We are engineers so we must find a solution.”
That has been achieved in the main ways, said Matsuda. “We have changed the concept of the bike from a (high) rev speed cornering machine to a torque based cornering machine. So a much lower engine speed for finding performance.”
When asked why Kawasaki had agreed with the new rev rule changes, during the negotiating process between MSMA, FIM and Dorna, Matsuda-san said that ‘agreed’ was the wrong word. “No, I accepted the rules. But just accept - that is all - because this is the rule. And we accepted because this is the rule.”
There was always the possibility that Kawasaki would simply stop racing in WorldSBK, but that is not an option for Matsuda-san.
“This is one solution, but I do not want to choose that solution,” he affirmed. “I want to stay here. Still we have a possibility. This rule is a little bit too much of a handicap for Kawasaki so if we still win, it sounds nice. We must show our solution.”