It was an inspiring outcome for the Kawasaki BCperformance squad at Phillip Island’s opening round of the 2019 Australian Superbike Championship (ASBK) in Victoria between 21-24 February, as riders Bryan Staring and Lachlan Epis piloted the new 2019 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR to respectable results throughout the weekend.
While qualifying 10th meant his work would be cut out for him in the Kawasaki-sponsored Superbike category, Western Australian Staring put on a gritty display to work his way through the field. The opening encounter on Saturday saw the number 67 incredibly climb to third position, backing up the performance later that afternoon in race two to collect fourth.
His starting position on the fourth row ultimately hindered him for Sunday’s final encounter, battling his way through to eighth in the highly-competitive class, granting him fifth overall to kickstart the season. The points will prove valuable as the season progresses over a seven-round schedule.
“The weekend wasn’t too bad at all,” said Staring. “I’m quite frustrated with my qualifying performance, because overall that’s what cost us a better result this round. I managed to get away with it in the first race, which was good for the confidence to stand on the podium early on in the series.
“One podium was good, fourth in race two was also good, but today’s eighth place was a killer for us in points. Fortunately, I’ve come out of the first round with three decent finishes and we can now attack the championship from here. The team put in a big effort this weekend, so a big thanks to them.”
For Kawasaki BCperformance newcomer Epis, who made his official debut with the team, it was a weekend of finding his feet within the talent-stacked field while continuing to adapt to the Ninja ZX-10RR. Qualifying in 20th place, the youthful talent made evident progress in his riding throughout each outing, lodging an 18-16-19 scorecard for 19th overall.
“It certainly wasn’t an easy weekend in terms of results, mainly still adapting to the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR,” Epis explained. “All the guys are working really hard and we’re gelling really well. The bike is definitely capable as we saw Bryan up on the podium in race one, so there are just things to work on myself.
“I definitely gained a lot of knowledge and we have a lot of information to work through and understand moving onto round two from here at Wakefield Park. The final result wasn’t what I was hoping for, but I know where I need to move forward now and can’t wait to get back on the bike again.”
Kawasaki BCperformance team manager Kelvin Reilly acknowledged that while improvements are in sight ahead of the second round, the duo of Staring and Epis were able to make a steady start to their 2019 campaign with valuable data gained.
“I’m happy because we came out with good points and fifth in the championship with Bryan, but as always in racing, we could be better,” Reilly commented. “I feel we’ve had a steady start to the year and we’re still learning about the new Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR - it’s an amazing package and has so much power, which is something we really need to harness and work on.
“Bryan rode great in all three races and displayed true grit, as this championship is just so tough at the moment. Lachy is doing good as well, he’s improving every time he rides the bike and he knows what he needs to improve on in order to climb the order. We’re looking forward to Wakefield Park!”
Making their Kawasaki BCperformance Junior Team debut aboard the sharp new Kawasaki Ninja 400, riders Callum O’Brien and Tayla Relph both experienced a mixed weekend. O’Brien wound up 10th overall with a 9-3-DNF results sheet, crashing out of the lead group in race three, while Relph was 22nd overall with a DNF-21-20 scorecard.
Kawasaki Motors Australia-supported Ninja ZX-10RR riders Matt Walters and Glenn Scott both displayed promising performances throughout the round, ultimately winding up 11th and 12th overall respectively in the Superbike category. It was also a great ride from Mike Jones in race three, scoring a runner-up result and posting an incredible new lap record of 1m31.8s.
The Australian Superbike Championship now heads to Wakefield Park in New South Wales for round two of the series, scheduled for 22-24 March.