Sixth Round Starts Soon For Rea And Sykes At A Modified Sepang
May 11, 2016
The forthcoming sixth round of the 2016 FIM Superbike World Championship at Sepang in Malaysia will be held at a familiar venue for KRT riders Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes, not least as it was the launch venue for the 2016 showroom model Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R. This coming weekend they will be racing their new model Ninja ZX-10Rs on new asphalt after a comprehensive resurfacing programme at the 5.543km circuit.
After five rounds of the now 13-round WorldSBK championship have been completed KRT riders sit first and third overall, with reigning champion Jonathan Rea enjoying a 35 point series lead and his team-mate Tom Sykes sitting 32 points from second place. In the Manufacturers’ Championship the new Ninja has taken Kawasaki 34 points clear of the opposition after just ten individual races.
Each KRT rider has already stood atop the podium in 2016, with Rea having won five of the ten races held so far and Sykes having taken a win at Buriram in Thailand.
The last time Tom and Jonathan were at Sepang was for the world launch of the 2016 Ninja ZX-10R, which was undertaken with great help and co-operation from the KRT squad. Both official riders were present at the Sepang new model launch, as well as their crew chiefs – Marcel Duinker for Tom and Pere Riba for Jonathan.
With both being long time members of the Kawasaki WorldSBK effort Tom and Marcel helped to develop the new bike, using their KRT experience to mould the final design of the latest big Ninja. The launch at Sepang also offered Tom the first chance to ride the production bike. Jonathan and Pere used the launch to gain valuable track time on the road version of the new machine.
This coming weekend, after previous rounds in the Netherlands and Italy were affected by rain, the KRT squad will be hoping for more consistent track and weather conditions. In Malaysia, that means hot and humid weather conditions.
Neither rider is a stranger to the heat at Sepang but they will be running their new bikes on new tarmac, around a circuit that has had an all-new surface, with the camber re-profiled in many key areas. The expectation pre-race is that these changes will make the lap time potentially faster.
As per the new schedule of WorldSBK in 2016 there will be one full-point Sepang race on Saturday May 14 and one on Sunday May 15. This time around, however, the races will take place at 16.00, local time.
Once the Sepang weekend has been completed the championship will reach and pass the official halfway point at the British round, to be held at Donington Park between May 27 and 29.
Jonathan Rea stated: “We have some good memories of Sepang from last year. We were able to be really strong, especially when it came to tyre life. So I am exited to go back there. We are still developing new ideas. In race two at Imola, although we had some small issues, we found a lot of positives. I think for Sepang we will have really good information. I have also watched the race from last year a few times. The most exciting part about this weekend is to go somewhere with a lot of heat. Aside from the first two flyaway races the weather has been so inconsistent. I enjoy working in the heat and the consistent temperatures will be better for everybody. That should also make the tyre choice much more straightforward and we can work better on our race set-up. I am just looking forward to working again to help take the new Ninja forward.”
Tom Sykes stated: “Sepang is a circuit where we have had great speed in the past. Last year unfortunately we abused the tyres too much but apart from that our speed was fantastic. I am really excited to go back there. We know we will have to work on the balance of the bike compared to last year to try and make a good compromise between speed and consistency. I am motivated to know that we can still adjust our package to let me do what we need to do. It is no secret that I am still not able to showcase my full potential but that is good in one way because that means that there is more to come. Sepang is a great circuit and a great facility. They have resurfaced the track so I think it will be quite a weekend for a number of reasons.”
Josh Hook (Grillini Racing Team Kawasaki) and Dominic Schmitter (Grillini Racing Team Kawasaki) will once more compete for the Italian based team, while Saeed Al Sulaiti (Pedercini Racing Team Kawasaki) continues in his first season in WorldSBK.
Roman Ramos (Go Eleven Team Kawasaki) was injured at Imola and replaced by Gianluca Vizziello, and the Italian will once more stand in for the team’s regular rider. Australia’s Anthony West will replace the still-injured Sylvain Barrier in the Pedercini Racing Team Kawasaki squad in Malaysia.