Baz targets podiums with Ten Kate Yamaha

Loris Baz has sights set on claiming Ten Kate's first Yamaha silverware, Jerez likely scene of team's first event with the R1.
Baz targets podiums with Ten Kate Yamaha

Loris Baz is confident he can fight for Ten Kate's first Yamaha World Superbike podiums during the team's partial debut season with the R1.

On Tuesday the Dutch squad - which won ten titles during 16 seasons with Honda, nine in WSS plus one in WorldSBK - officially confirmed its comeback with Baz and Yamaha.

"I want to finish on the podium," Baz told, when quizzed on his Ten Kate Yamaha expectations. "We'll not be able to think about the championship at all so we can focus on the races. If we race like we can do, we'll finish on the podium.

"Alex [Lowes] had three in Thailand and Marco [Melandri]on Australia too, so this package is clearly able to finish on the podium.

"I can't wait to get started. I've not ridden the new R1 yet, I rode the old bike in 2011, but I've ridden so many bikes over the years since. Kawasaki, Yamaha in MotoGP, both types of Ducati in MotoGP and the BMW so I'm sure that I can adapt to this bike pretty fast and the podium is the target."

Regrouping after the shock Honda split, Ten Kate is yet to name the definite scene of its WorldSBK return, but round six at Jerez (June 7-9) is described as a "realistic goal".

"I want us to be on the podium as soon as possible but it's likely that our season will start in Jerez," Baz confirmed. "Imola (May 10-12) is still on the books at the moment but we'd not have much testing for that."

Still only 26, Baz was a double WorldSBK race winner for Kawasaki before spending three seasons on satellite machinery in MotoGP, with a commendable best result of fourth (twice).

Last year's WorldSBK return with Althea BMW proved a disappointment and the Frenchman's forgettable season was summed up when the dream chance to race for the factory KTM MotoGP team in his favoured wet conditions at Silverstone was annulled by standing water.

Stung by last year's experience, Baz opted to wait on Ten Kate rather than sign up for a less competitive option in 2019.

"At the end of last season we took the decision, my manager and me, to only race if we could have a package to be fighting at the front," Baz said. "I didn't want to have another season like last year but we couldn't find anything in WorldSBK so we looked in MotoAmerica, in BSB and other places.

"When we started to talk to Ronald [ten Kate] and Kervin [Bos] it made us think that we should wait and see if anything can happen with them. We were told by ten Kate that if the project would happen it would only happen with the right package.

"It was a long time waiting for it to happen but finally it's cool!"

While waiting for the Ten Kate Yamaha package to be confirmed, Baz has been watching the opening two rounds at Phillip Island and Buriram - all won by former MotoGP rival Alvaro Bautista on the new Ducati Panigale V4 - with especially keen interest.

"Alvaro is just flying at the moment! When you're used to changing many things in your career - Alvaro has ridden the Suzuki, Aprilia and Ducati in MotoGP so he has this experience - it means you can adapt pretty fast.

"For me adapting back to Pirelli tyres took a lap so it can happen quickly. For sure he's doing fantastic at the moment, but I think that the gap between Alvaro and the others isn't just the rider or just the bike.

"They are working so well together and he's found a great balance with the bike and is riding it perfectly. When the package is good it's hard to fight against that and we saw that with Johnny [Rea] for years

"The [Ducati] isn't easy to ride though because Eugene and Chaz are struggling with it."