A NEW ERA BEGINS: how will Bassani get on with his new Kawasaki challenge?

Monday, 12 February 2024 06:12 GMT

‘El Bocia’ moves on from Ducati of his first three years in WorldSBK and has big shoes to fill within the factory Kawasaki team

There’s changes aplenty in the 2024 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship and one of them is Axel Bassani (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK), who replaces Jonathan Rea within KRT after the six-time World Champion moved to Yamaha for this season. There’ll be a lot to learn for Bassani in his first season back with Kawasaki – he was European Supersport Cup winner in 2016 with them – but one of the youngest riders on the grid is ready for a new outlook as he joins one of the most successful teams on the grid.

THE STORY SO FAR: Bassani rising through the ranks

Bassani started in the European Superstock 600 Championship with Kawasaki in 2015, where he took a podium with P2 at Magny-Cours before going on to be European Cup winner in 2016. He was back in his native Italy on BMW and Yamaha Superbike machinery in 2018 and 2019 but it would be 2021 where Bassani would come to the fore on the world stage again. A podium in the rain in Barcelona in WorldSBK – coming close to the win after leading for the first time – served as a catalyst for the #47 to assert himself as a front-runner.

2022 and 2023 continued to welcome Bassani to the front, mainly for his rivalry with fellow countryman Michael Ruben Rinaldi. The two clashed on numerous occasions during 2023, notably at Barcelona when Rinaldi’s Race 1 ended in the gravel, whilst Race 1 at Jerez saw Bassani out after contact with the #21; this year, Rinaldi will move to replace Bassani at Motocorsa Racing and for sure, it will be a story and dynamic to keep an eye on throughout 2024. Six podiums in total, he’ll plan to add to it in green.

TESTING SEASON: adaptation key to inline four

It’s been a challenge for many riders before Bassani – Scott Redding to BMW and Alvaro Bautista to Honda the key ones – but will ‘El Bocia’ be any different? So far during preseason testing, the 24-year-old has needed time to adapt to riding the bike, with corner entry and braking being the two areas where he needs time. At Portimao, he elevated himself up the order but didn’t trouble the top ten placings. However, Bassani – in his own admission – is not a fan of testing or practice, so let’s see how it goes when the visor goes down and the lights go out in Australia.

One thing is guaranteed; wherever he is in the pack, he won’t think twice about coming through on the rival ahead of him. It’s also worth noting that a first win eluded Bassani at Ducati; with no dry win for Kawasaki since 2022, a win for Bassani in green would be a hard-fought one, although upgrades via the superconcessions system will help the Japanese brand close the gap to the front.

FIRST THOUGHTS: “if we continue working hard and believing, we will arrive”

Speaking after his second test with the bike after Jerez, Bassani stated: “Now, I’ve started to feel good with the bike; it’s not easy because it’s completely different compared to the Ducati but step-by-step, test-by-test, we’re starting to feel good. Having a teammate is good because you can work with them and learn about their riding. It’s nice and they’re always your first opponent! We’re slowly arriving to Alex. We only need to enjoy and find a good way to follow during this winter for next year.”

Continuing after further testing into 2024, he said: “The pressure is normal; like last year, I just want to do my best so it’s normal for me. I’m really happy to be with Kawasaki, a good team, good guys. I want to take my first win but it’s not easy, as the level is super high and all the riders are good riders. We’ll see what happens but if we continue working hard and believing, we will arrive.”

A NEW ERA BEGINS: follow Bassani’s first season in green with the WorldSBK VideoPass!