Jonathan Rea, Tom Sykes and the entire Kawasaki Racing Team are on their way to Jerez in Spain for the penultimate round of the 2016 FIM Superbike World Championship knowing that this could be a truly pivotal weekend.
With Rea in a championship lead he has enjoyed since the very first round, and Sykes in a firm second place, both have opportunities to improve their championship prospects to a dramatic degree in Spain.
Rea will be able to make the title his own this weekend should he grow his current championship advantage of 48 by even a few points. Conversely, two good results for Sykes in relation to Rea will ensure that the championship will go all the way to the final round at the end of October in Qatar.
One other rider, Chaz Davies, is still mathematically capable of catching both official Kawasaki riders, as he sits 81 points behind Rea, and 33 behind Sykes, with a maximum of 100 points left for any rider who wins every remaining race.
The 2016 Ninja ZX-10R has already scored 14 wins in its inaugural season in the hands of Jonathan and Tom. As a result of this type of success, Jerez is also a potential championship-winning venue for Kawasaki in the Manufacturers’ Award, if results favour the Akashi based manufacturer. Currently Kawasaki has an advantage of 85 points over the closest competitor.
Whatever the outcome of the races on Saturday and Sunday Jerez is already a special venue for both KRT riders. It was the track at which they each secured their respective world championship crowns with Kawasaki. Rea won his championship last year during the Jerez weekend, two years after Sykes had completed his championship win there in 2013.
Jerez will be an unusual weekend no matter what happens at the end of race two, as there will be an official DWO test on Monday 17th, where Tom and Jonathan will have the chance to make preparations for the Losail season finale, and complete more development work on their 2017 set-up.
As things stand it has been a remarkable year for Kawasaki’s official riding duo even before the Jerez weekend gets underway. Rea has grown his career statistics to 38 wins, which are part of his overall podium total of 84. He has secured nine of those race wins in 2016, and 19 podiums, with four more possibilities before the end of the year to take more.
Tom his now posted 31 race wins, 81 podiums and a remarkable 37 Superpole successes. Tom’s win total for the current year stands at five, as part of his 17 podium places. In the points rankings, Jonathan has 426 to Tom’s 378, with Davies on 345.
In 2017 Jonathan and Tom will compete on full WorldSBK specification ZX-10RR machinery, which has even more focus on performance than the already class-leading Ninja ZX-10R. KRT helped to launch the new RR model at the Cologne show last week, to great public acclaim.
The Circuito de Jerez has been a relatively recent but highly popular addition to the WorldSBK calendar. Located close to the historic town of Jerez de la Frontera, the 4.423km circuit boasts a variety of corners and elevation changes, with natural amphitheatres for the spectators to get a clear view of the action.
The final round of WorldSBK in 2016 will be held at the Losail circuit in Qatar, between 28th and 30th October.
Jonathan Rea, stated: “From last year Jerez holds very special memories so I am excited to go back there. We had a very productive mid-season test at Jerez, where we not only get to refine our current model, we also got to work on some items for 2017. It seems like we are in a good way with the bike in races and this is the first opportunity I have to win the championship this weekend. If we do a good job we can achieve our target of being world champions. That is in the back of my mind but also we have to be clever, because Tom and Chaz are riding really strongly and I am sure some others will also be strong in Jerez. So we need to be prepared to set-up the bike well with the team and then what will be will be. I’ll just try to go out and have two solid races. I have a lot of support coming from back home as well for this weekend.”
Tom Sykes, stated: “I am looking forward to getting back out on the bike and it is a bit of a pivotal weekend coming up. I am just hoping that we can make something happen. That is all we need and then we are back into it. I am excited to go to Spain again. We definitely found some good speed in France and got back some form in wet conditions. Ultimately, the few wet races we have had this year cost me, as you have only got to look at the points difference in wet conditions. And everything is teeing up nicely in preparation for the following season. Where we are at now means we are definitely able to fight in the dry, and we are looking forward to this weekend. We have also tested at Jerez this year and we have information from those tests. We have changed the bike set-up quite a bit since then but hopefully we can be in the ballpark when we get to Jerez.”