(Words and images- Kawasaki Europe) The culmination of four days of testing for Kawasaki Racing Team riders Tom Sykes and Joan Lascorz at Sepang has provided a positive start to the overall campaign in 2011.Consistent progress was made in finding effective set-up options for the all-new Ninja ZX-10R racebike, with Sykes in particular discovering another fruitful direction on the final day. This welcome development will be explored more at the next tests at Portimao at the end of this month, and again at the final pre-season tests at Phillip Island in February.Afternoon rainfall is a regular feature at the Sepang circuit at this time of year, but with four days on track the team had enough time to work through all their pre-arranged tasks. Suspension and geometry settings, plus getting the best from the engine spec the team will take into the start of the race season, were the main areas of interest at Sepang, which was just the latest in a long line of test sessions undertaken by the official Kawasaki entry and the new Ninja. The team also tried out final specification racing bodywork, before crating up their equipment and returning to Europe.
With regular Pirelli race tyres fitted, Tom and Joan set best laps inside the 2’04 mark, with regular race pace proving to be in the 2’05s, more than respectable lap times at circuit not normally used for WSBK racing or testing.Tom Sykes: “I felt really good at this test and overall I am quite pleased with how things went. We did well in the first couple of days and reached a high level, but even on the final day we made a big step and picked up more momentum. The step came from the geometry and chassis side, and we have such a good balance on the bike now for my riding style. This good direction should take us through to the start of the season. We did not have the chance to try and get a real fast lap but our pace was good and it was a really positive test. I’m looking forward to the Portimao sessions now, and we will have completed a lot of testing by the time the season starts.”
Joan Lascorz: “It was a very positive test for me. Even though I am not yet 100% recovered in terms of fitness on the racebike, I set good lap times, close to Tom’s best. I just need to keep working hard to recover my full strength. I learned a lot more things about the Ninja ZX-10R over these days, all good things. I am also happy with the way we are working in the team. I look forward to Portimao now, and riding the bike at another circuit before we go to Australia for the final test and then the first race.”
Paul Risbridger, Team Manager: “We had a good final day and ran from around 9am to 2pm. Tom did a good race run and we got the other things we wanted to try completed too. We made good progress with set-up today and both riders went into the 2’04s, with a consistent race pace in the 2.05s. We had no qualifying tyres with us, only race tyres. Joan is still not fully fit and we limited his runs, but he was lapping at a good pace. We did all the testing we wanted to do and we worked through all the important areas.Opting to do four days on track was the right thing, because at this time of year you always lose a little bit of time each day because of the rain.”
A further two official IMS test sessions, at Portimao and then Phillip Island, will take place before the season itself starts at Phillip Island on Sunday February 27.(Note- Australian Kawasaki WSBK rider, Chris Vermeulen has returned home to Australia to continue his recovery towards full race fitness. He will rejoin the team for final official pre-season testing at Phillip Island on Feb 21-22.)