Monday, May 25

KAWASAKI DOMINATES DONINGTON


66 leads 65:  Tom Sykes and Jonathan Rea going hard at it in the first Superbike race at Donington Park on Sunday.
The Spanish-based Kawasaki Racing Team continues to set records in this year’s eni Superbike World Championship, with the latest round in the series at Donington Park no exception.

Not only did Tom Sykes break his own two-year-old qualifying record in snatching pole position, he and Kawasaki team-mate Jonathan Rea both bettered Sykes’ 2013 lap record, with Sykes finally establishing a new mark early in the second race as he broke away from the field.

Rea had clocked 1m 27.914s on the ninth lap of the first race as he tustled with Sykes for the lead then Sykes lowered that to 1m 27.640s on just the second lap of the second race.  That was 0.434 seconds under the record he had established in 2013.

Not only that, Sykes broke his own race record of 34m 06.921s for 23 laps of the Donington Park circuit in the first race, completing the distance in 33m 59.865s while he diced with team-mate Rea.  He went even faster out on his own in the second race, stopping the clock at 33m 52.642s – more than 14 seconds better than his 2013 time.

In winning both races at Donington, Sykes became the first rider to win six successive SWC races at the track, starting with his double in 2013.


Tom Sykes wheelies home in front of the Kawasaki Racing 
Team to score his second Donington win.
However, the Donington double marked Sykes first appearance on the top step of a Superbike podium since he won the second race at California’s Laguna Seca in July last year.

Although by far the longest serving rider in the Kawasaki team in modern times, having joined the marque in 2010, Sykes has not been having an easy time of it in 2015.  His 2-2 result at Imola on May 10 was only his third and fourth visit to the podium this year, in a season that has seen Kawasaki newcomer Jonathan Rea dominating.

In the 12 races now run, Rea has scored eight wins and four second places.  He leads the championship by 101 points over former Honda team-mate Leon Haslam (Aprilia Racing Team Red Devils) with Sykes a further point adrift.

Whether Donington marks a major turn-around in Sykes’ fortunes remains to be seen as there is no doubt that Rea on the re-worked ZX-10R Kawasaki is still the combination to beat.

The Irishman got to grips with the revised Kawasaki from the first time he tried it in pre-season testing, revelling in the ZX-10R’s superiority over the Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade he had been racing since 2009.

At Phillip Island in February he immediately won the first race of the season – the first time any Kawasaki rider had won a race on début.  The closest anyone else has got to that was late 1994 when Australian Anthony Gobert defected from Honda, jumped on a Muzzy Kawasaki and won his second race on the brand, at Phillip Island.


Jonathan Rea has done what no one else has - won on début 
with Kawasaki.  The occasion?  Phillip Island in February.

Rea’s win at the Australian circuit in February was also the first time a Kawasaki rider had won a Superbike race there since Gobert did the double in 1996.

From there, Rea scored the double at the new Buriram circuit in Thailand in March, posted 1-2 results at the Spanish round at Aragon on April 12, then took double wins at Assen on April 19 and Imola on May 10.

By contrast, Sykes scored 6-4 at the season opener, 3-5 in Thailand, 3-DNF at Aragon and 5-5 at Assen.  But in a sign that his fortunes are changing, Sykes scored 2-2 at Imola behind team-mate Rea – before utterly dominating Donington.

Rea did not make it easy for Sykes in their first Donington encounter, the team-mates swapping the lead, and paint, to the point Kawasaki team manager Guim Roda had his head in his hands.

Eventually, Rea let Sykes have the first race win, with Ducati’s Chaz Davies bringing his factory bike home third – the first time a Panigale has finished on the podium at Donington.

Ducati's Chaz Davies scored a pair of thirds, the first 
time a Panigale has made it to the Donington rostrum.
The second race saw Sykes take an immediate led, blowing the lap record away on the second lap, and eventually winning by more than nine seconds over his team-mate.  The fact Rea made the podium, let alone finished second, speaks volumes for the Irishman’s determination.


The Kawasaki ZX-10Rs of Tom Sykes and Jonathan Rea head the Aprilia of Leon Haslam early in the second race at Donington.
He nearly high-sided on the second lap and after getting things under control, found he had gone from second to seventh.  However, he was gifted sixth when Leon Camier had a front-end tuck on his MV Agusta then got his head down to work his way back to second place.  It took him 13 laps to do that, and by the time he got there, Sykes was virtually out of sight.

Behind Rea, Chaz Davies again brought the Ducati home third after an almost race-long tustle with Lean Haslam’s Aprilia, then it was Davide Giugliano on the second factory Ducati, ahead of Suzuki’s Alex Lowes with Jordi Torres (Aprilia) a further three seconds back after getting the better of reigning champion Sylvain Guintoli, clearly struggling now he is riding the unfancied Honda Fireblade.

Spaniard Jordi Torres had never raced at Donington and is a Superbike rookie.  That did not prevent him beating reigning champion Sylvain Guintoli, the Frenchman struggling on the Pata Honda after winning the title last year - on an Aprilia...


But the Kawasaki Racing Team is clearly in control of this year’s Superbike World Championship, even though there are still seven rounds and 14 races still to go.

The Kawasaki Racing Team (KRT) presence is an amalgam of Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI) development and technical parts, which come from Japan, while their committed partners Provec carry out the hands-on operation at the team’s Spanish base near Barcelona.  Provec delivers the logistics, transport, race and testing duties, under the supervision of, and in co-operation with, Kawasaki Motors Europe in the Netherlands.


Round 7 of the eni FIM Superbike World Championship will take place in Portugal at the Portimao circuit on June 7.


Tom Sykes was not to be denied at England's Donington Park on Sunday, starting from pole, winning both races and establishing new lap and race records along the way.  He could afford to be a satisfied man.