WSBK » 23 February 2012
2012 WSBK Preview - Kawasaki
As the opening round at Phillip Island looms, Crash.net looks ahead to the 2012 World Superbike Championship season manufacturer-by-manufacturer.
After all the hype and excitement surrounding the arrival of the brand-new ZX-10R, Kawasaki's 2011 World Superbike season proved something of an anti-climax in the end.
Of course, Tom Sykes's win at the Nurburgring and a run to fifth in the manufacturer standings – ahead of its depleted Honda and Suzuki rivals – were a few baby steps forward for the notoriously under-achieving manufacturer, it wasn't quite the leap many had been led to anticipate.
As such, Kawasaki has wielded the axe ahead of 2012, officially dropping the injury-ridden Chris Vermeulen and ending its association with Paul Bird Motorsport.
Assuming greater control of the team at manufacturer level, a commitment matched only by Aprilia and BMW this year, Kawasaki have also promoted Pere Riba's Provec outfit to assume day-to-day running of the team.
Having been responsible for reviving Kawasaki's fortunes on the World Supersport stage, the decision to replace PBM with Provec was a no-brainer and pre-season testing has suggested that the improvements behind the scenes have had almost instantaneous benefits on the track.
Deciding to retain Sykes – despite PBM's rather hasty and ultimately embarrassing claim that he had been dropped – and Joan Lascorz, the former has been particularly impressive in testing, showing lap record pace at Valencia before topping the official Phillip Island test this week.
Though race consistency, Sykes's weakness in 2011, won't be publically determined until the season gets underway, the Briton has worked particularly hard to improve in this area. By contrast, Lascorz has been working the other way around, the Spaniard eyeing improvements in qualifying to complement his superior race pace.
Though a lack of outright privateer competition kept them rooted to the back of the field in 2011, Team Pedercini enjoyed its best WSBK season as a Kawasaki customer last season, the experience of Roberto Rolfo and the occasional giant-killing performances of Mark Aitchison helping them creep into the points more often than not.
Despite this, Pedercini Kawasaki heads into 2012 with another all-new line-up, with David Salom and Leandro Mercado assuming rider duties. Salom is actually coming back to WSBK and Pedercini Kawasaki, though an anonymous turn in 2009 means you'd be forgiven for assuming he is a rookie.
Indeed, Salom returns to both team and series as an almost entirely different rider following an unexpectedly strong two seasons at World Supersport level, culminating in his run to second in the standings for Kawasaki last year, ahead of Fabien Foret, Broc Parkes and Luca Scassa. With greater experience on his side and a much improved bike beneath him, Salom should help Pedercini take another step forward in 2012.
Mercado, meanwhile, will embark on a steep learning curve, the Argentine stepping up to WSBK after a fairly nondescript year in Superstock 1000. A pre-season leg injury, which has prevented him from testing or racing at the opening round, isn't likely to improve his cause when he does finally make his debut.
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