Kawasaki officially launched its 2014 World Superbike Championship campaign, introducing its three-rider lineup of reigning World Champion Tom Sykes, Loris Baz and David Salom along with the Ninja ZX-10R superbike.
The Japanese manufacturer also used the launch party in Barcelona, Spain, to mark the 30th anniversary of the Ninja line which began with the 1984 Kawasaki GPZ900R. Kawasaki revealed a special 30th anniversary logo which will be featured on the side fairings of the 2014 Ninja ZX-10R superbike’s livery.
Sykes says he is looking forward to getting back on the track with the ZX-10R and defending his title. Sykes won nine races and scored 18 podium finishes to claim the 2013 championship.
“I do not even need to look at the bike to know what it is because it is engraved in my memory,” says Sykes. I have shared a lot of great times with this Ninja ZX-10R and I know we can be competitive again. We have had some really good tests in the off-season even though I did not feel at my full potential. I am excited and even more motivated than last year to start racing again.”
Despite Sykes’ success, Kawasaki still fell short of the manufacturer’s championship, finishing second behind Aprilia. Kawasaki will need a strong performance from Baz and Salom to help claim that title. Baz had a solid season in 2013 with two podium finishes including a win at Silverstone but his season was cut short due to a back injury. Baz is healthy again and knows there is room for improvement.
“We know that on Fridays and Saturdays we have to improve in practice and qualifying. In the races I am always strong but the nearer you start to the front row the better it is,” says Baz. “The target for me is to start in the two front rows each time, and then try to go with the leading guys. If I can start well I am sure I can be with those guys in front in the races.”
Salom joins the team full time this season after racing two rounds last season as Baz’s replacement. This season, Salom will be riding an EVO-category machine, as the first factory rider to compete in the new subclass. The EVO Ninja ZX-10R has the same chassis, suspension and brakes as Sykes’ and Baz’s machines, but with limited upgrades to its engine and electronics.
“I am very pleased and proud to be riding the SBK Evo bike for the official Kawasaki Racing Team,” says Salom. “Because I will ride the Evo machine it will not be like the full Superbikes of Tom and Loris but I hope to be at the head of the Evo race each time. I am happy to be in the Kawasaki family again.”
The 2014 WSBK Championship begins Feb. 23 at the Phillip Island circuit in Australia.