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Kawasaki picks WorldSBK squad to run Suzuka 8 Hour effort

Kawasaki calls on its World Superbike factory team to run its Suzuka 8 Hour effort with Jonathan Rea and Leon Haslam joined by Toprak Razgatlioglu

Kawasaki has called upon its World Superbike factory team to run its Suzuka 8 Hour effort with Jonathan Rea and Leon Haslam joined by Toprak Razgatlioglu for the 2019 race.

For the past five years, Kawasaki Team Green has run its factory team finishing runner-up in 2016 and 2017 plus third place in 2018.

With Kawasaki hunting the top step of the podium at the iconic endurance race, the Japanese manufacturer has opted for its official World Superbike team, Provec Racing, to run its Suzuka 8 Hours squad for 2019.

Both Rea and Haslam return in the rider line-up and will be joined by new recruit Razgatlioglu who replaces Kazuma Watanabe.

The Kawasaki squad will be managed by Guim Roda, the World Superbike team manager at KRT, with the crew expected to be a blend of its World Superbike and Japanese team members.

“I’m very excited to be returning to the Suzuka 8-Hour with Kawasaki. The race itself has a huge place in my heart. After last years’ experience, and being so competitive with Team Green, I am back for more,” Rea said. “Last year we had some great speed but also made some mistakes. We will learn from those mistakes and be more prepared than ever.

“The Suzuka 8-Hour is a fantastic event and this will be my fourth year now with Kawasaki,” Haslam said. “We have had some good races in the past, and a memorable one where I rode for five and a half hours out of the eight. Last year, with Jonathan, we were leading the race until we had a small problem.

“We have been on the podium every year and I feel that we have been making improvements with our package. Hopefully with some good testing under our belts we can make a strong challenge and finally get on that top step of the podium. It is good riding with Johnny as we have very similar set-up requests and we will have to see what the strategy is this year.”

Suzuka 8 Hour debutant Razgatlioglu is relishing his maiden experience of the race and is eager to learn from experienced hands Rea and Haslam who are both former winners at the event during their Honda days.

“This is my dream team,” Razgatlioglu said. “I am ready, always, and we will see how it goes. I am a fan of the 8 Hour race but this will be my first time riding.

“I am so lucky to be in a team with Johnny and Leon; it feels incredible. I have ridden once before in the Japanese Superbike Championship, last year.

“The Japanese Kawasaki team told me that it was a similar bike to the 8-hour machine, and the main difference should be the endurance style fuel tank. The biggest difference from WorldSBK racing for me will be the Bridgestone tyres.”

Kawasaki has tasted victory at the Suzuka 8 Hours on just one occasion before – in 1993 with Scott Russell and Aaron Slight on the ZXR-7 – while Yamaha is currently the dominant force at the event with four consecutive victories at the event.

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