Why don’t Kawasaki race in MotoGP? It’s a question asked almost as frequently as why doesn’t Jonathan Rea switch to MotoGP? The simple answer is money. For a fraction of the money Kawasaki spent to finish at the back of a MotoGP field they’ve been able to dominate the Superbike World Championship for the best part of ten years.
Six titles in a row and 123 victories since 2011 versus five podiums in six years. The cost of investment in their Superbike project is a fraction of what they spent in MotoGP but their results are enough for them to sell the ZX10-RR as the all conquering Superbike on the planet. It’s a marketing dream compared to the nightmare of trying to sell being a MotoGP backmarker.
Since Rea signed for Kawasaki in 2015 he has won 81 races and six titles as a Kawasaki rider. Aprilia started their MotoGP programme the same year. Who’s had better value for money? There’s only one winner in that discussion.
Teamwork makes the dream work
For a generation Kawasaki has found a partner team. At one point Paul Bird’s squad ran the Kawasaki programme in WorldSBK, with limited success, but since 2012 it has been the Provec Racing operation run by Guim Roda, and the results speak for themselves. First Tom Sykes and presently Rea have dominated to such a degree that the role of Provec is undervalued.
The team has faded into the background and morphed into Kawasaki in most people's eyes. That’s deceiving however. The success of Kawasaki in WorldSBK owes much to the team behind the scenes. The Roda brothers have developed a close knit squad that has been together for over ten years, with all roles within the team being decided by the team rather than a manufacturer. Even riders looking to bring people into the squad can be a challenge. A trusted mechanic might get the nod, but we’ve rarely seen that happen.
Provec value consistency above all else. They want the same faces in the box and the results have been remarkable. No stone is left unturned and this team truly is remarkable. Their professionalism was light years ahead of other WorldSBK teams for a long time and was above most MotoGP outfits too.
Parallels with Pramac
If you look for a comparison in the Grand Prix ranks Pramac Racing is an apt one. The Italian squad has developed a close relationship with Ducati over the years and flourished into a leading team. Provec would have been able to achieve the exact same success if they had been a MotoGP team rather than a Superbike squad.
Provec run their operation to a budget that comes from a variety of loyal sponsors as well as from Japan. Kawasaki provide resources and support, but the Spanish arm of the operation is what makes it tick. It’s what makes it successful.
Want a clear example? Look no further than the Suzuka 8 Hours. The Japanese race is unique on the calendar and a “must win” event for all the Japanese manufacturers. Kawasaki brought Rea and Leon Haslam to the event in 2018 as part of Team Green. There was some support from Provec, Pere Riba was the project leader, but success wasn’t attained. Mistakes in the race dogged the team and for 2019 Provec ran the entire operation.
Taking their usual WorldSBK squad to Japan they won the most prestigious race on the calendar at the first attempt. It was a remarkable achievement but the success went beyond simply having factory riders and mechanics; they brought their WorldSBK press officer to Japan and a host of other staff. The close-knit nature of the team has fostered loyalty from both sides.
Would Kawasaki ever move to MotoGP? Not a chance in the near future. The bigger question should be whether Provec would cast an eye over at the Grand Prix paddock instead...
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