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WorldSBK front-runners reveal 2018 contenders

Friday, February 09 2018

The build-up to the new World Superbike season continues apace, with three leading teams choosing to launch their new bikes this week.

Reigning champions Kawasaki Racing Team and perennial challengers Ducati unveiled their new machines, with both outfits confident of another title challenge in 2018. Meanwhile the Pata Yamaha team has also shown off its latest specification YZF-R1 bike which it hopes will be the catalyst for a first race win since 2011.

Kawasaki's Jonathan Rea broke records in 2017 as he became the first rider to achieve three consecutive WorldSBK titles, which led to him finishing second in the prestigious BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award. New rules for 2018 mean that engine rev limits for the fastest bikes in the field will be restricted, a rule which is likely to hit Kawasaki the hardest. Despite this, the Japanese outfit has shown well in pre-season.

Aboard this year's ZX10-RR bike, which was unveiled at Kawasaki's European HQ in Barcelona on Thursday night and features brighter shades of green and yellow, Rea is hoping to continue his run of success, which has increased his World Superbike career tallies to 54 wins and 112 podiums: "It's 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," he commented.

His teammate Tom Sykes, himself a title winner in 2013, is aiming to end Rea's run of dominance.  He said: "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."

Ducati, and Welshman Chaz Davies in particular, have been Kawasaki's nemesis in recent years. Davies finished second to Rea in 2017, and claimed seven wins. He is partnered with mercurial Italian Marco Melandri once more, while a third rider - Michael Ruben Rinaldi - will be added to the line-up at the third round of the year.

This will be the final season in which the Panigale R will be contended by the Aruba Racing team, before moving onto the Panigale V4 machine in 2019. Davies is keen to give the bike a fitting send-off in 2018:"It will be an emotional season. This is my fifth year on track with the Panigale R, I've won several races with this bike, which triggers many special memories, so it will be an honour to properly send it off before the Panigale V4 debuts. The new rules for sure will make it more interesting for the public. We need to do our homework but I don't see any reasons why we shouldn't be as competitive as in the past. We're working hard, there are upgrades in the pipeline for Phillip Island and we're ready to battle."

The Pata Yamaha World Superbike team enjoyed a strong season in 2017 with riders Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark finishing fifth and sixth in the standings. Determined to score the manufacturer's first WorldSBK race victory since 2011, the team is confident of further progress towards the front of the grid after scoring six podiums in 2017.

Andrea Dosoli, Yamaha Motor Europe Road Racing Project Manager, commented: "The 2017 season was an incredible one for Yamaha and the results we achieved across all classes mean that we enter into 2018 full of confidence. One of the key factors in motorsport is continuity and it is something we value highly. We are delighted to have retained both Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark in the Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team after such a promising year for the team in 2017." 

The 2018 WorldSBK season starts at Australia's Phillip Island in just two weeks' time. The only UK round of the season takes place at Donington Park on 25-27 May, with tickets available now, priced from just £28, while children aged under 13 go free. For more information and to book, click here.