Kawasaki’s glamourous history: the racing models through time

Wednesday, 1 July 2020 09:08 GMT

Relive some classic machinery, coated in iconic liveries; Kawasaki’s prominence in World Superbike has led to one of the Championship’s greatest success stories

A dominant force in the FIM Superbike World Championship, Kawasaki have been with the Championship providing memories since the beginning. The Japanese manufacturer has won six riders’ Championships, five manufacturers’ titles and over 100 races; look back at the iconic models raced in the Championship and rekindle some of those magical memories with iconic green machine.

Kawasaki’s first win came from Adrien Morillas at the Hungaroring in the first WorldSBK season, in 1988 on a GPX 750. The ZXR 750 was the next winning Kawasaki motorcycle; a first win coming in 1990 at Brainerd with Doug Chandler. Then, the ZXR 750R and Aaron Slight’s first win in 1992, before it was Champion in 1993 with Scott Russell, who took five wins. Russell was second in 1994, but Anthony Gobert stormed to wins in 1995 and in 1996, on the new ZX-7RR. Akira Yanagawa became synonymous with Kawasaki from 1997 until 2001, taking three victories throughout the stint, whilst Hitoyasu Izutsu became the first Japanese wildcard to do the double at Sugo in 2000, on a Kawasaki.

A new ZX-10R entered WorldSBK in 2004 and despite Mauro Sanchini leading at Misano, it never clinched a podium. The ZX-10R took a first podium in 2005 with Chris Walker at Valencia before he put in an amazing ride at Assen in 2006 to come from last to win, giving Kawasaki their first win since 2000 and the first for the new ZX-10R. One podium came in between that win and their next one, with Fonsi Nieto coming home third at Magny-Cours in 2007 before big updates came for 2008.

The Nurburgring in 2011 saw a new model ZX-10R come to the fore, with Tom Sykes giving it a first win in the wet. 2012 saw the bike challenge for the title with Sykes, who took four wins on his way to second, whilst replacement teammate Loris Baz took a career-first win at Silverstone. 2013 saw Sykes go one better and become the first Kawasaki Champion in 20 years, whilst Baz won at Silverstone again. Since then, they’ve been beaten only once to the title – by Aprilia in 2014.

Jonathan Rea joined Kawasaki in 2015 and won his first ever race in Australia, before overcoming a rivalry with Ducati’s Chaz Davies to take the crown. A revamped ZX-10R model was unveiled in 2016 and then the ZX-10RR came in 2018. Rea has achieved five titles in total, with 74 wins too. In that time came Toprak Razgatlioglu, who took a first win at Magny-Cours in 2019, on and Independent ZX-10RR. 2020 saw new rider Alex Lowes lead the standings and Jonathan Rea take the crown; can they be beaten in 2021?

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