Kawasaki Boss Speaks On New WorldSBK Regulations

Gordon Ritchie | February 11, 2018

Kawasaki Boss Speaks New Regulations—The driving force behind Kawasaki’s WorldSBK efforts, Yoshimoto Matsuda, made his opinions very clear about the new maximum engine rev regulations in WorldSBK at the official KRT squad’s launch in Spain last week.

Matsuda-san feels the rule changes are aimed squarely at Kawasaki’s dominance of the championship.

Kawasaki has evidently been in opposition to the new rules, but mostly in the background until now. In Barcelona, the opposition was verbalized and explained. Kawasaki’s Ninja ZX-10RR has fewer revs to play with at the very top end than any other manufacturer of 1000cc four-cylinder machinery at the start of the 2018 season.

“This is a racing rule, I do not say regulation—it is a racing rule—to level up all manufacturers who take part in WorldSBK.,” said Matsuda-san. “Dorna has set an engine speed regulation. All four-cylinder bikes must be less than 14,700rpm—except Kawasaki—which is 14,100. That is 600rpm less. This means we have a great handicap because we have already understood that engine speed is key for a four-cylinder engine. And, also, there can be a 250rpm reduction after every three rounds. We must accept this. Our bike is now 1100rpm slower than 2017, and in this condition, we must work.”

Kawasaki has already tested their 14,100rpm engine to great effect but that is not where the story ends, according to the new rulebook.

Rea (left) and Sykes have already been fast in pre-season testing with the new ZX-10RR.

“We have to prepare for another 250rpm reduction,” says Matsuda-san. “Reading the regulations, we can have, over 12 races, a reduction of 750 rpm.” That would come about if Kawasaki scores too many balancing points compared to their opponents, with calculations done after three rounds of the championship, then another three, and so on.

There is even a section in the new rules that states that the organizers can introduce rev drops, even if the ultimate performance on track does not trigger the new balancing rules.

“That is not all,” says Matsuda-san, about what has been dubbed by the media as the ‘God Rule’. “If this team is becoming a victory team, Dorna can decide everything. This is a sports rule, a handicap rule. I do not think that we reduce; we must struggle to fight. Some other team may have to reduce, but I do not know, this is a Dorna decision.”

As it stands, however, Matsuda-san seemed keen to remind everybody that he feels Kawasaki has already taken a ‘hit’ before the season has even started. “When the ZX-10RR has the lowest rpm, then we are being challenged to be successful.”

600rpm less is a big difference for the 2018 Kawasaki ZX-10RR, with the company totally changing how the engine delivers its power to make up for the lack of revs.

Matsuda-san is obviously pleased with the winter test results of the lower revving, more torque based engine, but confirmed that they have not tested an engine below the current 14,100rpm limit they start within 2018. But they have geared for it, inside the engine cases, to an extent. “We have not tested one or two steps lower,” says Matsuda-san. “Maybe we accept this first step reduction, so with this condition, we have already calculated the gear number for all the race balances. Our rider is so fast, our team is so fast, and our machine is fast, so maybe we must accept a one-step reduction, sooner or later. From the beginning, the calculation was with this reduction.”

Discussions between Dorna, the FIM, and the MSMA appear to be almost incessant, especially as there has been so many regulations and tech changes in the past few years, but Kawasaki is clearly frustrated by the latest developments in the rulebook.

“Honestly we are so tired to speak about this with Dorna,” says Matsuda-san. “But Dorna has adopted the rule, we cannot stop the rule, we cannot change. As an engineering company, our goal is to overcome limitations constantly. We are engineers so we must find a solution.”

That has been achieved in the main ways, said Matsuda. “We have changed the concept of the bike from a (high) rev speed cornering machine to a torque-based cornering machine. So, a much lower engine speed for finding performance.”

When asked why Kawasaki had agreed with the new rev rule changes, during the negotiating process between MSMA, FIM and Dorna, Matsuda-san said that ‘agreed’ was the wrong word. “No, I accepted the rules. But just accept—that is all—because this is the rule. And we accepted because this is the rule.”

There was always the possibility that Kawasaki would simply stop racing in WorldSBK, but that is not an option for Matsuda-san.

“This is one solution, but I do not want to choose that solution,” he affirmed. “I want to stay here. Still, we have a possibility. This rule is a little bit too much of a handicap for Kawasaki so if we still win, it sounds nice. We must show our solution.”

Gordon Ritchie | World Superbike Editor You may not understand Ritchie and his Scottish accent if you had him on the phone, but you can definitely understand what he writes as our World Superbike editor.