What next for Kawasaki after Jonathan Rea to Yamaha bombshell?

Expected to have the same line-up for a fifth consecutive WorldSBK season, Kawasaki will now have to dust themselves down and find a new direction after losing six-time world champion Jonathan Rea to Yamaha.
Axel Bassani, Ducati WorldSBK Most 2023
Axel Bassani, Ducati WorldSBK Most 2023

Although Rea was expected to remain with Kawasaki due to a multi-year deal that ran until the end of 2024 existing between the two sides, his contract was one where the following season was optional, and that, along with other reasons gave Rea the chance to depart. 

All of Rea’s major WorldSBK success has come with Kawasaki, and with their relationship dating back to 2015, moving on can’t have been easy for the Northern Irishman.

But it’s become clear in recent seasons that Ducati and Yamaha have moved ahead of Kawasaki in the pecking order.

2023 looked like a season where Kawasaki and Rea could have gone winless for the first time since joining forces, however, mixed conditions and a brilliant ride from Rea saw that change at the last round in Most.

Yet, Rea and Kawasaki have been nowhere near the top two combinations, which are Alvaro Bautista/Ducati and Toprak Razgatlioglu/Yamaha. 

Kawasaki’s ZX-10RR is still a competitive package but Ducati and Yamaha have both been a clear step ahead which has forced Rea into making a big decision to leave for the latter.

But where does this leave Kawasaki, who already have Alex Lowes signed for next season?

In terms of options, we have listed four riders that not only have the talent to be factory riders, but are riders that could be part of Kawasaki’s WorldSBK project for many seasons.

Axel Bassani

Linked with Kawasaki before it was expected that Rea and Lowes would continue in 2024, Bassani could see his chances of finally becoming a factory rider realised.

Indications recently suggested Bassani would be staying with Motocorsa Ducati, however, that was before the departure of Rea to Yamaha.

Scott Redding

Scott Redding, Czech WorldSBK, 30 July
Scott Redding, Czech WorldSBK, 30 July

Staying in WorldSBK, Redding confirmed such news on his social media following the Imola round.

However, it’s unclear whether he will stay at BMW after the German brand signed Razgatlioglu to become its star rider.

Michael Van Der Mark is also thought to be in the running to remain a factory rider with BMW, which could allow Redding to find a new destination.

Redding’s time at BMW has seen him achieve some great results, although plenty of frustration has also been evident.

Remy Gardner

Perhaps the least likely on this list to make the move, however, Gardner is a former Moto2 world champion and a rider that has been impressive in recent rounds.

The Australian clearly has huge amounts of talent and could be a rider that not only achieves big results, but one that can lead a team in terms of development.

Gardner has competed in Moto2, MotoGP and WorldSBK over the last three seasons, so with more continuity in the same series the 25-year-old could become the rider Kawasaki needs to help them bounce back.

Michael Ruben Rinaldi 

Rinaldi could be a great option for Kawasaki after losing his seat at Aruba.it Ducati to Nicolo Bulega.The Italian is a proven race winner in WorldSBK and has shown an ability to challenge the likes of Razgatlioglu and Rea on more than one occasion. 

Rinaldi also has more WorldSBK experience than the three riders listed above, and could be a valubale assest alongside Lowes.

Rinaldi has been linked with a switch to Honda as a departure from Ducati looks like a foregone conclusion, but with Kawasaki being much more competitive than Honda, the 27-year-old might fancy his chances of being more successful aboard the ZX-10RR.

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