World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea pulled the wraps off his 2018 Kawasaki at a sparkling launch event in Barcelona on Thursday night and declared: ‘It’s time to go racing’.
The triple champion and his team-mate Tom Sykes unveiled the liveries of their Ninja ZX-10RR machines at the Kawasaki Racing Team’s headquarters at Granollers.
Rea is gunning for an unprecedented fourth consecutive World Superbike title this season, which would see him equal English rider Carl Fogarty’s record of championship successes.
The 32-year-old has been in terrific form during winter testing and Rea is now looking ahead to the opening round of the series at Phillip Island in Australia in two weeks’ time.
“It is always exciting to unveil our new colours. It is when you feel like the season is kicking off for real,” he said.
“It is now time to go racing which I am super-excited about. KRT always pull out the stops when it comes to the team launch and they are making a big deal out of the new liveries.
“That gives you the feeling that you are walking into something new all the time. To be at a high level event like this makes me proud to be a Kawasaki rider.”
The Ulster rider, who is entering the final year of his current contract with Kawasaki, said he has taken a step forward with the ZX-10RR despite the introduction of new regulations, which limit the Kawasaki to 14,100rpm.
“The bike is constantly evolving. We’ve taken a step forward, even despite the new regulations. I feel good – it’s probably the best winter I’ve had off the bike for a while and I’m ready to go.
“I’m living the dream and really enjoying riding the bike. I’m looking forward to seeing what the future holds.”
Rea and Sykes’ Kawasaki machines feature an all-new graphics package and colour scheme, with the logos of main sponsors Motocard, Elf and Monster Energy featured prominently.
Yoshimoto Matsuda, KRT Project Leader, outlined the implications of the rule changes for Rea and Sykes this year and vowed Kawasaki’s fighting spirit would shine through.
“For 2018, in order to level up the performance among the manufacturers taking part in WorldSBK, Dorna has set a new limit for the engine revolutions for all four cylinder bikes to 14700rpm – except for Kawasaki, which is limited the lowest among the four cylinder bikes at 14,100rpm,” he said.
“That means that we have 600rpm less than even our closest rivals. Furthermore, if the bike performs exceptionally in successive races, the limit can be lowered 250rpm further. For comparison, in 2017 we worked at 15200rpm. So, with the new rules we will have to work with 1100rpm less.
“Obviously, this creates a great handicap for the ZX-10RR. Having the ZX-10RR at the lowest RPM limit, we consider that Kawasaki is being challenged for being too successful. But our spirit has been always been that of a fighter,” he added.
“For 2018 we overhaul our working direction. Winter testing has confirmed that we are working in the correct direction and the results have been good. We know from experience that winning and keeping the victory is not easy, for sure we’ll be giving our best effort and energy for this season. We never give up, we have the ‘Ninja Spirit’.”
An official two-day test will be held at Phillip Island before the first race weekend of the new season, which takes place from February 23-25.