Kawasaki’s official WorldSBK race team was launched in its final form to the world at the Silverwater Resort, near San Remo and Phillip Island, on Saturday the 16th of February.
As well as showing off the new bike colours and riders’ leather and helmet designs, the launch was deliberately held just a few days before the start of the new season, which will take place at Phillip Island between 22 and 24 February.
Testing from the 18th to the 19th is the final hurdle before the points come up for grabs in what will be a radically new season, with three, not four races each weekend.
The event was also held in Australia partly to boost the prestige of the championship’s opening round at one of its most iconic circuits, and partly as a change from the usual KRT hometown launch in Barcelona.
After speeches from various Kawasaki staff and others, the riders took to the stage in their new leathers and unveiled a bike which does not look that much different from the 2018 version, but for the inclusion of many more and larger Showa stickers. The Japanese suspension company joins Elf, Motocard and Monster Energy as a main team partner, and not just a technical partner as is has been in the past.
Shortly before showing his new bike off the World, four-time and record breaking world champion Jonathan Rea, stated, “Winter testing has gone really smoothly this year. With a new bike, generally it has taken me quite a long time to adapt to the bike in the past and is seems like Kawasaki are not just taking the new regulations and the new bike, but all my comments for these last years, and applied it to this bike. Soon as we got underway in the winter we understood what we needed to do, and step-by step we have arrived. I cannot wait to get started.”
Rea’s engine revs higher than last year’s, by deliberate design, and he has had pleasant experiences of that already. “I feel like I do not have to change gear anymore when the bike is not even making good power. The bike revs much better and I can actually feel fast. That is positive in racing and it means we have a little bit more freedom with the final gearing and the sprockets.
“Last year we lost a lot to our competitors on acceleration and top speed. And to being limited to our RPM. I felt many times we were fighting with a blunt knife. This year we have sharpened the knife well and truly, and we are ready to carve.”
For Haslam, who was a runner up in the WorldSBK Championship in 2010 but eventually dropping back into the BSB ranks for a few seasons, his 2019 opportunity could not be bettered after winning BSB outright for the first time in 2018 “I am waiting to wake up, it is like a dream,” said Haslam.
“I had nine good years in the World Championship but I have never had an opportunity like this. To be involved with KRT, Kawasaki and joining a team that has dominated for the past four years I just want to start racing now. Everyone has worked together. The professionalism of everybody. I am on a package that is winning. We are not looking to re-invent the wheel with the bike. The bike is there; it is just a case of adapting myself to it.”