In the close and competitive FIM Supersport World Championship there are an increasing number of cosmopolitan team and rider line-ups for whom the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R is proving to be the ideal competition package.
With Kenan Sofuoglu having won the championship with Kawasaki in 2012, the first year he had ridden the middleweight Ninja, the balance of power in WSS racing was clearly shifting to the green zone - for official, supported and privateer teams alike.
The official Kawasaki FIM Supersport World Championship entry in 2013 is Mahi Racing Team India, and this British-based, Indian financed squad has seen its two riders, Kenan Sofuoglu and another proven champion Fabien Foret, win races already, the most recent victory coming for Sofuoglu at the Imola round. In Australia Turkish rider Sofuoglu won the first round, while in Motorland Aragon Frenchman Foret took the victory.
Kenan has the right to run the number one plate for his latest Kawasaki campaign but chooses to use his trademark 54 plate as he goes about extending his all-time victory total record in this class. The hugely experienced Foret remains the second best rider at gathering career WSS race victories, so the Mahi team went straight to the top level when signing riders in their first full year of global competition.
Run from a base in the UK in co-operation with the Indian brand Mahi, which has links to the Indian cricket legend Mahendra Singh Dhoni among others, the team is ambitious and has its sights set on expansion and consolidation of its bases in Europe and Asia via Team Manager Andrew Stone and Team Director Amit Sandill. Far more than just another race team, it is a fusion of east and west.
As Andrew Stone said, “It is very important for us to have a race in India this year, as it is our home country for the team. We are based in the UK, but this project is part of taking motorsport into India. We are already looking and talking to Indian riders so the project is big and exciting, but difficult as we are racing in a World Championship in our first full year. It is a credit to the Kawasaki system that it has allowed us to build a team so quickly and effectively. They are on the end of the phone anytime I want to talk to them about anything and we want to build on that kind of thing in India, without a doubt.”
For the other two main supported Ninja ZX-6R teams in 2013 - Kawasaki DMC Lorenzini and Kawasaki Intermoto Ponyexpres - strong showings have already been in evidence, including podiums for the Intermoto team earned by two individual riders. Luca Scassa took third at Motorland Aragon while replacement rider Florian Marino was second at Monza, when standing-in for injured regular competitor David Salom.
With new sponsors Ponyexpres on board things are continuing in a good direction for a team that may be firmly based in the Czech Republic, but which has a vision of far greater breadth and scale. Want proof? Their riders hail from Spain, Italy and France. Formed around father and son team managers, Josef and Petr Kubicek, and with the technical input of 2001 WSS Champion for Kawasaki Andrew Pitt, this team now has 14 years of experience at a high level. They also won WSS races on Kawasaki machines as recently as last season.
Said Josef Kubicek, “It is difficult to continue to race at a global level in some ways but we have great support from our sponsors and partners, like Ponyexpres, and from Kawasaki. The Ninja ZX-6R is a really good platform to race with in WSS and we have already had podium success. I think it is possible to have some more this year.” The team’s stated aim in its quest for glory is nothing less than a mission statement. “Our goal is to be regularly placed as high as possible and fight for the podium, because racing is our life.”
The DMC Lorenzini Kawasaki team is a new WSS venture - in one half of its DNA at least - taking Russian Superbike champion Vladimir Ivanov and Scotsman Kevin Coghlan to the WSS championship to help promote DMC’s new Kawasaki dealer franchise in the UK. Starting in a single make series in the UK in 2011, the DMC squad raced in the Superstock 1000 FIM Cup last year with Coghlan, and won races in the Russian SSBK Championship, before forging a strong partnership with Kawasaki that also extends to a new Kawasaki store in Birmingham, England, which will also have a tuning shop and expert suspension service for their customers to benefit from their ‘Race on Sunday and sell on Monday’ philosophy.
Vanni Lorenzini, from Italy is a legend in the WSS paddock and headed up the championship winning effort with Kawasaki and Kenan Sofuoglu last year. This new partnership with DMC is another perfect example of how motorcycling is becoming a more global, teams more interdependent and therefore the sport becomes more interesting to a greater potential fan base.
Sergei Glagolev, who manages the DMC racing effort, explained why the team’s two main elements came together around the Kawasaki banner. ”The Kawasaki is the best bike now in the WSS class, everybody wants to use the ZX-6R. We get good support and co-operation with Kawasaki as well. The partnership with Lorenzini was good for us because he is the guy who has a strong link with Kawasaki already. We are a new team that is quite new in the paddock and it was difficult to earn official support in the first year. Vanni is very famous, has a good history in the paddock and for us it was easy to join with him when we wanted to use Kawasaki machinery.”
Glagolev confirmed that forming new partnerships inside existing racing set-ups is a model others will follow more often. “Now it is easier when teams co-operate because the economics are moving things that way. Lorenzini has some experience and we have money and a wish to compete at a high level so it became possible to organise this team in a good way.”
Top results have come tantalisingly close for the DMC squad and Coghlan was a great fifth at Monza, only a fraction behind the leading bunch. Ivanov has already been inside the top ten places in his return to WSS racing, before leg and pelvic injury struck for him at Imola.
There are other successful teams running Ninja ZX-6Rs in the 2013 line-up, including Andrea Antonelli’s Team Goeleven Kawasaki team and Riccardo Russo’s Puccetti Racing Kawasaki squad.
The reasons for so many riders and teams opting for Kawasaki power this year are obvious when you examine the race results.
As things stand, after the seventh round of the championship, Kawasaki is leading the manufacturers’ table in WSS.
A Ninja ZX-6R rider has taken either a win or a second place at every single round so far!
Of the 21 podium finishing places that have been earned up to now, no less than ten have been taken by Ninja ZX-6R riders, making Kawasaki the most successful manufacturer at the halfway point of the year, in many important ways.