Have Kawasaki found a step at Aragon test? – "Very encouraging… no massive step forwards"

Thursday, 23 March 2023 16:52 GMT

Contrasting emotions at Kawasaki after two days of track action come to an end at Aragon in Spain

With the 2023 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship currently in a break between rounds, testing action was aplenty at MotorLand Aragon across the 22nd – 23rd of March. With the Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK in attendance, all eyes were on them, to see if they were able to find a step back towards the sharp end of the field. After all was said and done, were they able to find what they were looking for?

Speaking after day one, six-time World Champion Jonathan Rea gave context of the situation coming into the test: “It’s important to get bike time after a difficult start to the season. We’re always trying to reinvent the wheel with our bike, with not many new parts coming. WorldSBK is moving on now at a fast rate of knots and with the window of our bike now, we need to go forward and we can’t keep going back to the base setup. Sometimes with new ideas, you go forward; two steps forward and one step back or one step forward and two steps back.

“There are a lot of ideas, so it helps here in a test situation, with quite a quiet track and without the urgency to go and do Superpole laps from Lap 1. I worked hard to understand the load that we put through the front tyre and did two long runs, one at 14 laps and the other at a full race distance of 18 laps. That was very encouraging; even though I got the feeling on the bike that after 14 laps, I stopped because of the ‘limit’ feeling. In the 18-lap run, the front tyre felt much better. We know the items we changed for that and if we can develop the bike in that way, then we’re really on the outside of the ballpark of where we’d be with the bike in terms of geometry. We also had new strategies with electronics and at the end of the day, we focused on practice starts and they were good. It was something that in Indonesia, Sander, my new electronics guy, has brought something really good with my starts. Last year, I was inconsistent and at Mandalika, I was able to get good starts. Track position is everything and it’s difficult to pass with our bike, so we need to maximise track position early in the race and then that can be the story of the race.”

Talking about day two in review, Rea started with more practice starts and trialling new aero on the front fairing: “We got on track straight away when the action kicked off and maximised the time. We continued working in a new direction with the geometry of the bike. The main focus was to take weight and energy out of the front end, and we managed that with some tweaks. We were able to find quite a good feeling and we understood some electronic ideas, rear shock specs and a swingarm – things we’ve had in the spares truck and that we’ve used in previous seasons; nothing revolutionary, just trying things with this setup. With the front fairing, the idea was to have some extra protection with my shoulders but I didn’t feel any influence at all to be honest. I feel like we made some positives but we need to re-test at a different circuit. Everything’s not clear yet, we just need to understand all these items again. We’ve definitely learn a few things and that’s invaluable.”

Alex Lowes spoke about his opening day at Aragon: “I did a race run and then another one, back-to-back, so that was hard work. I think by 4pm, I’d done 86 laps. We’ll analyse what we did for today and see if we can make steps for tomorrow. With the level of the bike now, it’s just small details. You’re always dreaming of one magic change to go half a second faster, but the reality is that it’s not going to happen for us because the bike hasn’t changed too much and the guys already do a good job of the bike, so we’re already getting a lot out of the bike.

Speaking about the second day in the hotter conditions, something Lowes had hoped for, he said: “This afternoon, I used one set of tyres on each bike, couple of runs. We’re working on used tyre pace; it wasn’t not too bad but don’t really know without checking the others. There were no massive steps forward. We’ve tried some different triple clamps, been trying to still turn the bike and still be able to brake aggressively, but without forcing the tyre quite as much. We didn’t quite get the result we expected today, but we’ll try again in Montmelo.”

Talking about team structure and the changes that had been made, Lowes explained whether that was helping him or not: “At the end, we need to work better as a team; there are two new guys in the team and they’re both on Jonny’s side at the moment. In that way, it’s not benefitting me at all because Jonny’s got extra help whereas I’ve just got Danillo [Casonato]. We need to work a bit better really; it can’t be Jonny with two guys helping him because they’re getting used to it and me with one. This is something that we need to try and improve a bit.”

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