Kawasaki Racing, but Not Superbike

Henny Ray Abrams | January 21, 2009

BROOKLYN, NY, JAN 21: Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A. has gotten out of the factory racing business by abandoning the American Superbike class in favor of the AMA SportBike 600cc class, with Roger Hayden and one other rider to campaign the all-new 2009 ZX-6R on a team run out of Attack Racing. “We will not be racing Superbikes,” said Bruce Stjernstrom, Kawasaki’s Director of Marketing, in a phone conversation from Kawasaki’s headquarters in Irvine, California. The team, which is to be called Monster Energy® Attack Kawasaki, will be “a combined effort, but we’re taking our resources and their resources and making one team to compete in the AMA series.” The decision wasn’t related to costs, Stjernstrom said, “it was just more of a directional thing that we wanted to be in what we thought was the direction that they were going in and the premiere class, and that’s what we decided.” The decision to race 600s was in no way related to Kawasaki’s decision to withdraw from MotoGP, Stjernstrom said. Attack Kawasaki has won the past two Daytona 200s, in 2007 with Steve Rapp and in 2008 with Chaz Davies, but only after Erion Honda’s Josh Hayes was disqualified for having an illegal crankshaft. Rapp finished third in the 2008 Formula Xtreme championship, with Davies tied for fifth. Davies finished sixth in the Supersport championship. Reached in Southern California, where he’s training for the 2009 season, Roger Lee Hayden said he hadn’t been told of Kawasaki’s plans and that he would know more after a meeting at Kawasaki later in the afternoon. As to whether the other rider would be Jamie Hacking, “it hasn’t been decided yet. We’re not prepared to release the name of the other rider,” Stjernstrom said. Hacking, who rode for Kawasaki in 2008, remains without a contract after turning down an offer from Yamaha. Stjernstrom said Daytona SportBike is the “premier class as we see it” and that from the first meetings they had with AMA Pro Racing that moving to 600’s as the premier class has “been apparent to everyone that’s been involved in this.” When DMG CEO Roger Edmondson first met the factories back in April, the program was for a 600 class and MotoST. The move to 600s works well with the marketing of Kawasaki’s new ZX-6R at the expense of the ZX-10R. Stjernstrom said that Kawasaki Superbike was positioned to rebound from 2008, when Roger Lee Hayden spent much of the year hurt and Jamie Hacking was a constant podium presence. “I think if you look back at last year, we were positioned to probably be moving into this year with Roger [Hayden] coming back from a number of injuries last year, we were positioned to do really well in Superbike,” he said. “But things changed and we’re adjusting to meet those changes.” The fate of the factory Superbike crew members, who are salaried employees, wasn’t released. But for them, at least, it can’t be seen as a good sign that Attack Racing will have a prominent role. Now the team faces a number of looming deadlines, not only the March 6 Daytona 200, but also a February 3-4 test at Auto Club Speedway. “As you know, the deadlines are past; everything’s looming obviously at this point and we’re moving quickly,” Stjernstrom said. “It hasn’t been that we’ve just been sitting idle. We’ve been working towards this. Stjernstrom said they will continue to sponsor the Kawasaki AMA Superbike Showdown, presented by Supercuts at Infineon Raceway. Kawasaki’s announcement leaves Suzuki as the only factory not to reveal their plans for 2009, though it’s believed they’ll make an announcement this week, possibly as early as tomorrow. The team, with continued backing by Rockstar and Makita, will be Mat Mladin, Tommy Hayden, and Blake Young, all on the new Suzuki GSX-R1000’s in the American Superbike class. American Honda announced their withdrawal in December, but may remain in the American Superbike class in some form.

Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor

Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.