Superbike World Championship, Australia

Rea starts off on the wrong foot

For once, Jonathan Rea did not take a double podium on the Phillip Island circuit. Only fifth at the finish of the first race of the season, the triple world champion nevertheless was back in form on Sunday, finishing second hard on the heels of the winner.

The Races

Hard also on tires is last, long curve in the Phillip Island track, and this year it played tricks on the Kawasaki riders. And on Saturday afternoon Jonathan Rea had to deal with a bike that almost forced him to retire. Fifth on the finish line, he caught up the next day by fighting it out to the finish and the checkered flag with Marco Melandri. Still lacking grip in acceleration, the Championship title holder could not prevent the Italian from scoring a twin-win for this first event of the season. Starting in pole position, Sykes finished second on Saturday before failing to make it to third place on the podium the following day, also a victim of a lack of power control in the last two sectors of the Australian circuit.For his debut in Superbike, Razgatlioglu took thirteenth and tenth places. In Supersport, the Kawasaki riders also a somewhat delicate start to the season. Victim of a bad crash during the practice test sessions, and handicapped by his tires during the race, Kenan Sofuoglu had to settle for thirteenth place at the finish of the first race of the season. Okubo complained about vibration problems with his bike and could do no better than fourteenth.

The Championship

While Marco Melandri took the lead in the World Superbike with two wins this weekend, the Kawasaki riders limited the damage by leaving the State of Victoria in second and third place in the overall standings. Sykes scored thirty-three points and Rea thirty-one. Razgatlioglu is in twelfth place while in Supersport Sofuoglu and Okubo chalked up three and two points respectively in the evening of the first race of the season.

The background

Since his debut with Kawasaki in 2015, Jonathan Rea had never finished better than second place in the opening event of the World Superbike Championship held in Australia. And he's consistently made the podium ever since Magny-Cours 2016. So this is the first time since he has raced on the ZX-10 RR that the Brit is not in first place in the overall WSBK rankings. Three-time world champion in three seasons, Rea flunked last weekend on the Phillip Island track.

Guilty? «Certainly not» says Pere Riba, Jonathan’s chief mechanic. «If we hadn’t had a tire problem, we would have finished on the podium, and maybe even in first place.»  Rea was not the only one to experience tire problems on the very fast Australian circuit. So much so that for safety reasons, the race management imposed a change of tires during the second round held on Sunday. A measure that allowed Rea to fight for victory until he came out of the final bend…

Mexico City next stop for DS Virgin Racing

Press Release – Versailles, 23th february 2018

All-electric Formula E series returns to Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez circuit for round five on Saturday, March 3. Team set to continue fight for both drivers’ and teams’ championship.

 

After one of their strongest starts to a Formula E season, DS Virgin Racing are once again in action as they continue their Latin America tour with the Mexico City E-Prix on March 3.

Held at the famous Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez circuit in the Mexico capital, the team’s all-British driving pairing of Sam Bird and Alex Lynn will be aiming high – quite literally – at the 2.092km circuit with it being the highest on the calendar at 2,285m (7,500ft) above sea level. They’ll also be hitting speeds of up to 210kph as they tackle the 17-turn track over 47 laps.

Bird, who finished third during last year’s race, will be hoping to replicate this and continue his strongest ever start to a season where he currently lies in third place in the drivers’ standings. Meanwhile, team-mate Lynn will be hoping to bounce back from last month’s race in Santiago where mechanical issues forced him to retire – ending his run of scoring points in every race to date. As for the teams’ championship, DS Virgin Racing currently occupy third spot in the closely fought battle.

This year also marks the third running of event and will have a special significance with Formula E donating all profits from the race to the post-earthquake reconstruction efforts in Mexico City. In addition, the DSV-03 together with all Formula E cars will be sporting the hashtag #FuerzaMexico in support.

 

Sam Bird said: “It’s always great to be racing in Mexico as it’s a great circuit with some of the best fans in the world. Last time out we finished on the podium and we’ve shown strong pace all season so hopefully we can perform well this time round.”

Alex Lynn said: “The last race was really frustrating for us but that’s racing and for sure we’ll put that behind us and look to do the best job we can in Mexico. It will be another new track for me, so we’ve been working hard in the simulator to fine tune everything and ensure we’re in the best possible shape.”

DS Virgin Racing Team Principal Alex Tai commented : “Mexico is always a fantastic event, largely due to the amazing fans which last year tallied more than 35,000. I’m sure this year will be just as atmospheric and it’s great that we can help support the post-earthquake reconstruction efforts. As always, we’ll head to Mexico looking to come away with a strong points haul and continue our fight for both the drivers’ and the teams’ championship.”

DS Performance Director Xavier Mestelan Pinon added : “The Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez track is really quick and we know from the previous years it will be really difficult to overtake. Qualifying will be particularly crucial. The high altitude will also be an important point to manage for the team, with high altitude and temperature, component cooling will be an important point to look after.”

Round five of the 2018 ABB FIA Formula E Championship takes place in Mexico on March 3.

Kawasaki Racing Team unveils Ninja Spirit

The Kawasaki Racing Team unveiled its official 2018 FIM Superbike World Championship machinery and riding line up today, 8th February, at their headquarters in Granollers, Barcelona. Kawasaki Heavy Industries’ official team will once again feature three-time champion Jonathan Rea and 2013 season champion Tom Sykes aboard the latest race specification Ninja ZX-10RR.

With an all-new graphics package and stunning colour scheme, the 2018 race machine features prominent logos from team sponsors, including Motocard, Elf and Monster Energy.

With several new technical rules imposed for 2018, including some that have already affected Kawasaki more directly than their competitors, the message for the 2018 KRT campaign is #NinjaSpirit. The spirit of accepting a challenge of striving for on-track excellence, and never giving up.

The launch started early for some members of the media who had enjoyed a comprehensive tour of the recently refurbished KRT HQ and race workshops, including a Q&A session with KRT Project Leader, Yoshimoto Matsuda.

Beginning in the early evening the launch featured speeches and explanations of the #NinjaSpirit approach for 2018. As well as the formal launch of the team a new range of KRT clothing was unveiled to cover the next two seasons which will soon be available for sale. With the launch concluded there was no rest for the KRT squad and KHI, as the official machines and much of their race equipment are to be flown to Australia on Friday 9th February.

Even in the face of new rules which are set to effect the class leading Ninja ZX-10RR more than the majority of machines on the grid, Kawasaki, Rea and Sykes now enter the 2018 season full of Ninja Spirit, determined to succeed no matter the odds or however many more external influences may arrive during the season.

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 against their rivals, and then the first round of the season at Phillip Island in Australia 23rd to 25th February.

STATEMENTS:

Jonathan Rea, the 2015, 2016 and current world champion, stated: “It is always exciting to unveil our new colours. It is when you feel like the season is kicking off for real. It is now time to go racing which I am super-excited about. KRT always pull out the stops when it comes to the team launch and they are making a big deal out of the new liveries. That gives you the feeling that you are walking into something new all the time. To be at a high level event like this makes me proud to be a Kawasaki rider.”

Tom Sykes, the 2013 world champion, stated: “Anything is possible this year and we have had a really good testing programme, taking into account the change in the rules. At this moment I feel we are very well prepared. The launch itself at the team’s HQ was absolutely fantastic and everyone involved has done a really good job. It is very fitting, and this amount of effort is a great way to start the season.”

Mr Yoshimoto Matsuda (KRT Project Leader): “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 14700rpm, except for Kawasaki, which is limited the lowest among the four cylinder bikes at 14,100rpm. 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 15200rpm. 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!”

Biel Roda (KRT’s Marketing and PR Director): “2017 has been a very profitable season for us. History has been made with a third consecutive rider title plus a third manufacturer title. We achieved 18 victories last year, our personal record in a single season.

Thank you very much to all who make the Ninja Spirit become a reality that allows us to achieve our dreams.”

Martin Lambert (Communications and PR Manager for Kawasaki Motors Europe): “We want to show the wider story of the Kawasaki Racing Team. 2018 will be a challenging year. There have been changes in the technical rules of World Superbike that will demand our very highest efforts in all areas.

In the face of yet another challenge we pick up the gauntlet proudly and in a positive way. KRT take this 2018 season as the best opportunity to show what continually drives them to be a successful racing project. We call this the ‘Ninja Spirit’. It’s a combination of competitiveness, teamwork and passion for racing. A spirit present within Kawasaki, within the staff of KRT and within all Kawasaki fans.”

#NinjaSpirit

Successful test prepares KRT for new season

KRT’s WorldSBK riders Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes have now completed their pre-season preparations after the conclusion of a two day test at Phillip Island in Australia, which will be the host venue for the first round of the championship this coming weekend.

Often taking place under windy conditions the tests were led in the end by Rea, setting a 1’30.598 best lap on the final day as he found the correct feel and feedback from his machine.

Sykes was third quickest on his Ninja ZX-10RR, with a 1’30.804 best lap; despite suffering some discomfort from the ankle he hurt in a highside crash on the first day. Rea had also crashed on day one, and again at slow speed today, but both KRT riders will start in good shape for the first practice session of race weekend, to be held on Friday 23rd February.

All Kawasaki riders will start the 2018 season with an upper rev limit of 14,100rpm. Despite this being a lower level than any of the other four-cylinder manufacturers at present, KRT now starts the season in a defiant mood after some positive testing experiences.

The heavy winds that characterised this test overall were also accompanied by sunshine at times, allowing a lot of track time for the riders and teams to make their final pre-season preparations.

Now the riders will have a slightly changed weekend schedule to take part in, with three practice sessions on Friday 23rd and then race one on Saturday 24th and race two on Sunday 25th.

STATEMENTS:

Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team Rider): “Even though the track was not in perfect condition this afternoon we managed to put together a full race simulation and we are better equipped with that information to improve the base of the bike for the race. Unfortunately yesterday I had a big crash at T11 and gave my mechanics a lot of work. They have been working super late and hard during this test and I’m so grateful for their efforts. Also a special mention should go to Arai, Alpinestars and the physio Albert, because I woke up this morning feeling relatively ok! Now we can enjoy the build up to the weekend and keep our eye on the conditions.”

Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team Rider): “Overall I am third in the lap times but I am very happy. Even happier when you consider my physical condition, after a big crash yesterday. Big thanks to the boys in the garage who worked until the early hours of the morning to be ready for today. They have given me another great bike. I have to thank Dainese and Shark for my protective equipment, and the airbag as well, as I did a few barrel rolls through the gravel in my Monday crash. I could not believe it when I woke up this morning and was ready to go. I will definitely be OK for race weekend.”

Pere Riba (Crew Chief for Jonathan Rea): “I am happy with the results of this test and the job has been done. We have tried to prepare for the race weekend and compare some points. I think we have a good base to prepare for Friday’s race weekend. Johnny has also been improving himself from yesterday until the end of today. He is quite confident with the bike. Now we will analyse everything and try to make another step in the right direction. We tried some different items and also some tyres we tested in Jerez and Portimao. But mainly we have been trying to prepare for race weekend.”

Marcel Duinker (Crew Chief for Tom Sykes): “Most of our job was done over the previous winter tests. We worked through our complete test programme then and we knew that this test in Phillip Island was only to prepare ourselves for the race. We did this and we even managed to improve our general bike setup over these four test sessions. In our initial speed we are happy but over distance we are more than happy. We have done a good job during this test and we are ready for the weekend.”

Craig Breen produces the performance of the weekend!

At an event where Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT had been absent from the podium since 2014, Craig Breen and Scott Martin held their nerve on the final leg to finish as runners-up, the best result of their career to date in the WRC. Their performance was complemented by the sixth place of Mads Østberg and Torstein Eriksen, an especially well-deserved result on their debut in the C3 WRC, whilst Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle made it to the end of the rally determined to fare better in Mexico.

Although it only featured three stages, today’s final leg was anything but a Sunday stroll, with more fresh snow on the roads.

 

Craig Breen admitted in morning service that he really liked the Likenas stage, going so far as to describe it as the rally’s best speed test. But the 28 year-old Irishman then ‘walked the talk’: on the first pass, he finished a second ahead of his direct rival, before he then gained another 3.1s on the second run, meaning he headed for the final stage with a 13.4s lead over the third-placed driver. He then proceeded to negotiate the ten or so remaining kilometres with the confidence of a seasoned campaigner, sealing second overall and claiming the best result of his short WRC career! A result that provides further evidence of his continuing progress and the improvements made by the C3 WRC since last year’s rally!

 

This was Craig’s second podium in the WRC, following his third place at Rally Finland in 2016, and the fourth of the C3 WRC, confirming the good start to the season made by Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT.

 

Keen to keep racking up the miles in the C3 WRC, Mads Østberg did not tempt fate by trying too hard to hang onto fifth place and hold off the flying comeback of Lappi, preferring to make sure of scoring important points for Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT. The Norwegian thus concluded a successful return with Citroën, whilst the team consolidated its third place in the manufacturers’ world championship standings.

 

Having rejoined under Rally 2 rules this morning after making a minor but costly error yesterday, Kris Meeke used today’s final leg to work on a few things for the future. His aim is now to hit peak form in Mexico, where he secured the C3 WRC’s maiden victory in last year’s championship.

 

WHAT THEY SAID

Kris Meeke
« It was a difficult rally for us. With our less than ideal position in the running order on Friday, I had trouble finding any confidence, which meant that we ended up being one of the first on the road on Saturday. I was nonetheless working hard to secure the point for tenth place when we nosed into a snow bank at low speed and damaged the turbo. It was really unlucky. I’m determined to bounce back, starting in Mexico. Out of the next four rallies, I have already won three of them and I was leading in Corsica last year as well. »


Craig Breen

« I’m absolutely on top of the world! It has been an incredible weekend. I have always really enjoyed this rally in the past, but I have to say that I surprised myself this weekend in that I was able to fight at the front throughout the race, without making any mistakes. I used to think that quick rallies weren’t suited to me, but that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. In any event, my C3 WRC was perfect here and it’s great to secure this result for the team – the guys have worked really hard for this. »

 

Mads Ostberg
« I’m delighted with my return to the team. I wasn’t expecting to be able to fight for such a good position with the limited amount of miles we covered in testing. I hope that the team is pleased with what we have done with this first experience together. I know that with more time in the car, I can be even more competitive with the C3 WRC. In any case, I would love to drive it again soon! »

 

FINAL PROVISIONAL STANDINGS
1. Neuville/Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) 2h52’13’’1
2. Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) + 19’’8
3. Mikkelsen/Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 28’’3
4. Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 45’’8
5. Paddon/Marshall (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 54’’4
6. Ostberg/Eriksen (Citroën C3 WRC) + 1’15’’3
7. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 2’04’’9
8. Suninen/Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 2’52’’2
9. Tänak/Jarveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 3’44’’4
10. Ogier/Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 8’45’’4

 

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
1. Thierry Neuville – 41 points
2. Sébastien Ogier – 31 points
3. Jari-Matti Latvala – 23 points
4. Esapekka Lappi – 23 points
5. Ott Tänak – 21 points
6. Andreas Mikkelsen – 21 points
7. Craig Breen – 20 points
8. Kris Meeke – 17 points
9. Hayden Paddon – 10 points
10. Elfyn Evans – 8 points

 

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
1. Hyundai WRT – 54 points
2. Toyota Gazoo Racing – 53 points
3. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT – 46 points
4. M-Sport Ford WRT – 43 points

 

Citroën crews on the race

The last practice session before this evening’s official start, the Rally Sweden shakedown provided Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT with an opportunity to make a few final set-up adjustments. Back in the Citroën squad for this weekend, Mads Østberg and Torstein Eriksen confirmed that they had got to grips with the C3 WRC quickly as they set the second fastest time, whilst Kris Meeke – Paul Nagle and Craig Breen – Scott Martin also showed good pace, finishing fourth and eighth respectively.

This morning’s 6.86 kilometre-long shakedown stage was contested on perfect, snow-covered roads around Skalla. Lined with big snow banks, and despite being a little bit bumpier than the stages contested over the weekend, it proved to be fairly representative of what lies in store for the competitors.

The tyres used in the shakedown are not included in the allocation for the rally, so the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT crews took full advantage, completing five runs and therefore continuing to rack up the miles on a surface where confidence is absolutely critical. This final practice session also enabled the team to review various set-up options and build on the work done during the four days of pre-event testing last week.

On a stage where the grip improved throughout most of the morning as more cars completed, Mads Østberg set the second fastest time, just three tenths off the pace, whilst Kris Meeke set the fourth fastest time on his final attempt. Craig Breen, who began the session a little more tentatively than his team-mates, gradually grew in confidence and closed the gap to the frontrunners on his final pass.

The rally is due to start this evening on the Karlstad racecourse with a 1.90km-long super special stage. However, the real action gets under way tomorrow with the longest leg of the rally (140.1km of timed stages), split between Sweden and Norway.

 

WHAT THEY SAID


Kris Meeke

« At the start of the shakedown, I wasn’t feeling very confident. I felt more comfortable on the second pass and in the end, my time is fairly competitive. Since last year, obviously we have learned lessons and improved the C3 WRC. But we know that our competitors have improved too. So we’ll just have to wait for the first few stage times and see where we stand, especially as road position is going to have an impact. In any case, I’m pleased with my car. The target for me is to keep being consistent and try to come away from Sweden with some more points in the bag. »


Craig Breen

« The start of the shakedown wasn’t easy for us. The conditions were fairly different to those we had in testing last week and I was a bit short of grip at the rear of my C3 WRC. But we managed to adapt the set-up as we completed more runs, and we finished on a positive note. Tomorrow, I hope to make the most of the starting order, which should work in our favour. »

 

Mads Østberg
« It was a good morning, I was a bit surprised to be quickest after the first run, to be honest, but it confirms that the day of testing was beneficial. I was able to improve the set-up so it suited me more, and I’m pleased to see that we are on the pace. We were able to try a few little things today and now we’ll opt for the best possible set-up. Let’s hope that the forecast for snow tomorrow proves to be right, because if it does snow, my position way down the starting order shouldn’t be too bad! »

 

SHAKEDOWN STANDINGS
1. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) 4’17’’3
2. Ostberg / Eriksen (Citroën C3 WRC) 4’17’’6
3. Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) 4’18’’1
4. Meeke / Nagle (Citroën C3 WRC) 4’18’’3
5. Tänak / Jarveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 4’18’’7
6. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) 4’18’’8
7. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) 4’19’’0
8. Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) 4’19’’1
9. Suninen / Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) 4’19’’2
10. Evans / Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) 4’19’’3

FIFTH FOR SAM BIRD DURING FRANTIC SANTIAGO E-PRIX

Press release – Santiago, 3rd January 2018

Briton keeps up title bid after points finish and fastest lap in Chilean capital. Third spot for DS Virgin Racing in closely fought teams’ standings.

DS Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird picked up further championship points to keep up his title bid in the all-electric Formula E series, during today’s frantic inaugural race in Santiago, Chile.

The British racer finished fifth, as well as securing the fastest lap of the race, to secure yet more vital points to lie in third place in the drivers’ standings, with DS Virgin Racing also in third spot in the teams’ standings.

Both Bird and team-mate Alex Lynn began the day strongly with Bird topping the opening practice session and Lynn finishing the second session in P2. Come qualifying, both racers again looked quick with Bird finishing in the top five Superpole shoot-out, a feat he has achieved in every race since Berlin last season. After grid penalties elsewhere in the field, Bird would start the race P4 with Lynn in P6.

An incident packed first lap led to an early safety car period with Bird and Lynn running fifth and sixth respectively. Bird worked hard on passing Sebastien Buemi ahead but was unable to get by, whilst Lynn was able to hold off a charging Lucas Di Grassi as the pit stop window approached. Opting for different strategies, Lynn went for the undercut with Bird going a lap longer.

In the first race without minimum pit stop times, both drivers made good stops, but Lynn’s race was disappointedly cut short soon after when he suffered a mechanical failure. Meanwhile, Bird continued to push on and, despite a brief loss of telemetry by all teams in the garage, battled hard until the chequered flag.

Sam Bird said: It was a frustrating race, but we still came away with good points today. We tried something different with the pit stop strategies which sadly didn’t quite come off. It’s also a shame what happened to Alex, but I know he, and the team, will come back even stronger in Mexico.”

Alex Lynn said: Today has been a disappointing note to end on given we were competitive all day. We were looking strong in the race and on course for good points, but the mechanical issue forced us to retire. It’s still been a great event with plenty of atmosphere and on a street track with plenty of character.”

Team Principal Alex Tai commented: From the off, we showed we had the pace today to challenge at the top, but sadly the race result didn’t reflect this. We were strong in all sessions leading up to the race, with Sam yet again making it into Superpole and Alex just missing out. Both of them drove great races on a challenging circuit in challenging conditions. Of course, we still managed to come away with good points and remain in the mix in both the driver and teams’ championship.”

DS Performance Director Xavier Mestelan Pinon added: The weekend has not lived up to our expectations but nevertheless we once again showed our speed from the off. We are now third in both championships, and therefore still in the hunt for both titles. This is a fiercely competitive championship where the slightest mistakes are punished and, for sure, we’ll come out fighting again in Mexico.”

The next round of the 2017/2018 ABB FIA Formula E Championship takes place in Mexico on March 3.