Loris Baz says he 'cannot believe' he is already a World Superbike Championship podium winner after his inspired turn in the first race at Brno was rewarded with an unexpected third place finish.
The Frenchman has been making steady progress since he was confirmed as Joan Lascorz's full-time replacement in the factory Kawasaki team, though he came to Brno having not managed a better result than eighth.
Indeed, Baz's hopes of even a top ten finish had been dealt a blow in qualifying when he could only manage 15th on the grid, but by taking risks in the the tricky conditions at the start of race one, he was already up to fifth place by the end of the opening lap.
Carrying his momentum forward, Baz even got as high as second position – ahead of pole sitter team-mate Tom Sykes – and though he would eventually be shuffled back to fifth place in the closing stages, the youngster was still on course for a new personal best finish.
However, fortune would favour him when Jonathan Rea's collision with Tom Sykes took the Honda rider out of the race, while the close following Carlos Checa was also delayed. Avoiding the drama, Baz ascended to third position to join Sykes on a podium he didn't imagine was possible so early in his WSBK career.
“I can't believe I am here on the podium in race one,” said Baz, who went on to finish eighth in race two. “I could not dream of being on the podium when I started in Superbike just a few races ago. I started well and just tried to stay there with the other riders.
“We have been working very well in Kawasaki, all the mechanics and so on, and we never go in the wrong way. Because I am tall we had to make some changes to the geometry of the bike since I started riding it, but it really feels like I have been riding this bike for a year or more. I still think I am dreaming right now to be on the podium. In race two I got a good start again but it took a bit of time to overtake two riders in front of me.
“I had a really good feeling with the bike again. I could not make a step to pass some other riders but I am really happy. It is out best race in the full dry conditions and we were only 13 seconds from the front so it was really close.”
Sykes and Baz's results signal the first double Kawasaki podium in World Superbikes for 14 years, when Akira Yanagawa and wild-card rider Doug Chandler stood on the rostrum at Laguna Seca in 1998.