Tom Sykes has run up front during pre-season testing, giving Kawasaki some hope for a resurgent 2012.
Kawasaki has long struggled in SBK. A complete redesign of the ZX-10R in 2011 didn’t yield immediate results, and former MotoGP rider Chris Vermeulen’s tenure proved frustratingly futile, fraught with perpetual injury. The 2011 season saw the factory Kawasaki team suffer through an embarrassing scandal as well, with drugs discovered in the Paul Bird Motorsport transporter when the vehicle was returning to the UK after the Assen round.
Kawasaki later announced it was cutting ties with PBM and moving its SBK effort in house for 2012. Ironically, Kawasaki made the announcement at the same round PBM delivered Team Green its first win in five seasons – Tom Sykes taking the checkers in the rain at Nurburgring. Kawasaki actually outperformed Honda and Suzuki in the Manufacturers standings in 2011, and it looks to improve with a year of racing development backing the redesigned ZX-10R.
Kawasaki Racing Team
When Kawasaki sacked PBM, it was implied that Sykes’ would not be returning for 2012 either (Paul Bird’s blunt press release after the Kawasaki announcement). However, Kawasaki opted to hang on to the Yorkshire rider, and if preseason testing is any indication, it may prove to be a savvy move by the Ninja crew. Sykes topped the final day of the official two-day test at Phillip Island, as well as tussling with Checa for the top of the timesheet during the previous three-day private test the week prior. Sykes’ surprising win at Nurburgring was his only podium last year, though he had a handful of top-five placings and regular top-10s.
The factory-backed Kawawasaki Racing Team retains two of its three-rider lineup from 2011, as Sykes is teamed with Joan Lascorz. The Spanish rider actually placed higher than Sykes in the 2011 points (11th compared to 13th) by virtue of consistent top-10 results. The former World Supersport contender marks his second year in the premier class.
The satellite Pedercini Kawasaki team returns as well, with a pair of SBK rookies in David Salom and Leandro Mercado. Spanish rider Salom was runner-up to Davies in last year’s World Supersport series. As for Leandro “Tati” Mercado, the Argentinian has quite the CV for a 20-year-old, winner of the 2009 AMA SuperSport Shootout. He then turned laps for two seasons in the Italian CIV series, on 600 and 1000 Superstock machinery, scoring points in the corresponding FIM STK series as well. However, both Pedercini riders begin their inaugural SBK campaigns injured. Mercado broke his wrist riding supermoto in the off-season, and is replaced at the season opener by the team’s STK rider Bryan Staring. Salom is also banged up, breaking his scaphoid during the preseason testing at the Phillip Island circuit but slated to run at the opener.
- Top Rider – Tom Sykes
- Top Team – Kawasaki Racing Team
- Maybe THE SBK Dark Horse (at least for a win/podium…) – Tom Sykes
2012 Kawasaki SBK Roster:
#17 Joan Lascorz – Kawasaki Racing Team
#36 Leandro Mercado – Team Pedercini
#44 David Salom – Team Pedercini
#66 Tom Sykes – Kawasaki Racing Team