How this year's regulations affect the dominant factory outfit.
Kawasaki Racing Team faces its toughest challenge in a number of seasons as the 2018 FIM Superbike World Championship (WorldSBK) looms, set to compete with a rev-limit handicap in the new season.
The factory team of defending world champion Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes was launched in Spain overnight, unveiling the latest Ninja ZX-10RR in its WorldSBK specification with a revised livery.
During the launch, project leader Yoshimoto Matsuda detailed how the latest regulations will impact Kawasaki during the season ahead, in a bid to bring rival manufacturers closer to the dominant team this year. And the handicap could be increased even further as the season progresses.
“For 2018, in order to level up the performance among the manufacturers taking part in WorldSBK, Dorna has set a new limit for the engine revolutions for all four-cylinder bikes to 14,700rpm except for Kawasaki, which is limited the lowest among the four-cylinder bikes at 14,100rpm,” Matsuda explained. “That means that we have 600rpm less than even our closest rivals.
“Furthermore, if the bike performs exceptionally in successive races, the limit can be lowered 250rpm further. For comparison, in 2017 we worked at 15,200rpm, so with the new rules we will have to work with 1100rpm less. Obviously, this creates a great handicap for the ZX-10RR. Having the ZX-10RR at the lowest RPM limit, we consider that Kawasaki is being challenged for being too successful, but our spirit has been always been that of a fighter.
“For 2018 we overhaul our working direction. Winter testing has confirmed that we are working in the correct direction and the results have been good. We know from experience that winning and keeping the victory is not easy, for sure we’ll be giving our best effort and energy for this season. We never give up, we have the Ninja spirit!”
Winter testing in Europe has been completed, but immediately after the launch in Barcelona the team will begin final preparations for a two-day official test and then the first round of the season at Phillip Island on 23-25 February.