KRT Kawasaki unveiled its colours for the 2016 World Superbike championship in Barcelona on Thursday evening as riders Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes sounded off confidently ahead of the season curtain raiser in Phillip Island.
Both men will race the new all-new ZX-10R, which has been developed by the Catalan KRT outfit over the past few years, for the first time in Australia at the close of February after showing an impressive turn of pace through winter testing.
The winners of two of the previous four World Superbike rider's titles, Kawasaki claimed its first constructor's crown in 2015, courtesy of Rea's romp and both Rea and Sykes feel they have the strongest package on the grid as they prepare to start the 14-round series.
On the back of his romp to the 2015 world championship, which included 14 wins and an incredible 23 podium finishes from 26 races, Rea admitted that going into a season as reigning champion brings an added level pressure.
“Of course I feel the pressure because we made an incredible season last year,” said the 29-year old, who will use the #1 plate in 2016. “I went away after the final round, I had some weeks at home, and then there was the birth of our new baby boy. That gave me some weeks to relax. I needed to find some more deep, extra, motivation to come back and not aim for top three again but defend my position as world champion.
“I started my pre-season preparations earlier than in 2014 or 2015 and I am already in good shape. We have our hands on a new ZX-10R, which I am really excited about. The best way to approach our season is the same step-by-step way as we did in 2015. I am excited to start the season and we do not have to wait too long. I am excited to start, excited to race and to try and defend my championship with the best support in the world.”
For Sykes, who set an enviable pace at tests in Jerez in November and February, the new ZX-10R, coupled with a disappointing 2015, has given him added motivation for the year ahead.
“I am very excited and motivated,” said the 2013 world champion. “Last year was a setback for me and the guys around me. Having said that, I am very blessed because I have certainly got the best people around me. Come rain or shine, and even on the difficult days, the guys patted me on the back. They know I give 100%. Likewise they always give their best. If you had a difficult season and still finished third in the championship it is also not so bad.
“Kawasaki has given me another fantastic tool; the new 2016 Ninja ZX-10R is absolutely fantastic. It is a bike I am very familiar with. It is a bike that feels almost replicated from our 2012, 2013 and 2014 development. The first laps were very exciting and from there on it just got better.
“Things have come easier for me and the lap times are already impressive and there is still work to be done. I definitely feel that with big help from the people around me, Kawasaki and all our technical sponsors we have the best chance and best package on the grid. Given the form we have had in recent testing this pre-season I cannot wait for it to begin.”
The 2016 season gets underway at Phillip Island on the 26th of February.