KRT Riders Head For New SBK Track On Top Form
Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia is a first time venue for the FIM Superbike World Championship and KRT SBK riders Tom Sykes and Loris Baz, plus KRT SBK Evo rider David Salom, will arrive there for this new challenge on a wave of strong recent results and optimism.
Reigning World Champion Sykes re-took the championship lead on his official Ninja ZX-10R at his home round of Donington Park last time out, thanks to a double race win, while Loris Baz was second in each race in England.
David Salom was twice the Donington race winner in the Evo championship fight, and now leads his closest challenger by eight points in a class which runs full Superbike chassis rules but features virtually stock engine parts.
With four full race wins this season so far Sykes has more than any other riders as he now enjoys a 26-point lead in the table. He has also ridden at the Sepang circuit, located on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, some years ago. This puts him in a better position than some of his rivals, but less so compared to those who have had extensive experience in MotoGP racing. Sepang is a popular MotoGP racing and testing venue, but this will be the very first time it has been used to host a full SBK race.
The 21-year-old Baz has never ridden at this long and technical circuit before but has been studying its layout from GP television coverage and computer game imagery. After five rounds of the season Loris is looking for his first win of an impressive 2014 season, which sees him equal second in the points totals, 26 behind Sykes, but ranked third overall as he has yet to win a race in 2014.
The Kawasaki Racing Team’s SBK Evo class rider, David Salom, has been on scintillating form in 2014, despite suffering from a right hand injury, which has held him back from his absolute best at times. The combination of Sepang rookie Salom and his Evo spec Ninja ZX-10R is nonetheless expected to shine strongly in the intense Malaysian heat.
There will be an extra-long 75-minute first practice session at the 5.548km Sepang International Circuit on Friday, to allow all the riders and teams to get accustomed to this new venue.
The now regular SBK rhythm of one race every two weekends continues after Sepang when Misano in Italy hosts the seventh round of the series, between June 20 and 22.
Tom Sykes: “I have ridden at Sepang before, some years ago, and I enjoyed it. It is quite a long circuit, wide and technical. I think the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R should have good potential there and I am really looking forward to riding it again on Friday. We will have a longer first practice session than normal to learn the circuit. Because it is such a wide layout it allows more space for passing opportunities, which makes for both safer and better racing. Sepang is technical in its layout and because it is so wide you can be tempted to use all the track width sometimes. I will have been in Malaysia for quite a few days when we arrive at race weekend because I have done some promotional work with Dorna and the Sepang Circuit organisers. This is the third time I have been in Malaysia and everybody has been very hospitable and made me feel very welcome. I have visited the manufacturer of the trophies that will be given out at Sepang and I did a long TV interview. I also rode a Ninja ZX-10R in Kuala Lumpur city centre after they closed off a street to allow us to hold a promotional event.”
Loris Baz: “After the previous round at Donington I have to be really happy because everything went well. It was a circuit I had always been slower at than the other riders and it is Tom’s home track, so it was really good to finish close to him in each race. Now the good tracks are coming for us. I am hoping to catch up a little bit in the championship and see where we can go from there. I have never been to Sepang so I only know the track from the Playstation. It looks really nice and I have been watching the GP races there every year. I know it will be hot and humid but I have been training for those conditions and I think it will be no real problem. The circuit looks wide and quite fast so I am really looking forward to this race and enjoying the track. I am sure with the extra long practice session we will have on Friday I can learn the track well. From there we can start to build for the weekend.”
David Salom: “The challenge this weekend is maybe more difficult than normal as I have only seen this track on TV and on the Playstation, which I have been practicing on to find out where the corners go. It should be a good track for us because it has big straights and wide corners. There are two or three hard braking sections but I think I have more time in the straights to relax my hand between the corners than most other circuits. The engine on our bike is good, fast, and in the corners our bike has been working well. We have eight points more than the next rider and that is a good gap for Kawasaki and me at this stage of the season. We have four races before the summer break comes along and now we are in a good situation.”