Kawasaki hasn’t won an All Japan Superbike title since when Hitoyasu Izutsu became Champion in 2000, but the last few years have been useful to prepare their return on the JSB1000 throne. Kawasaki Team Green, directly supported by the manufacturer based in Akashi, have made official their plans for 2019, as the Ninja squad have re-signed a rider and welcomed another one.
After finishing third in both 2017 and 2018 seasons, almost 29-year-old Kazuma Watanabe will spend his third consecutive season with Kawasaki Team Green. Watanabe joined Kawasaki in 2017 after leaving F.C.C. TSR Honda and he managed to fight for the title at his very first season on a Ninja machine, as he finished 3rd just 11 points behind Takumi Takahashi. Watanabe was third also at the end of 2018 season, whose highlight is the win he scored at Autopolis (Kawasaki’s home track). Watanabe will represent Kawasaki Team Green also at 2019 Suzuka 8 Hours and his aim for the new season is to take the factory Ninja ZX-10RR machine to the top of All Japan Superbike standings.
For what concerns the other side of the box, the team managed by Toshiro Shakado has decided to replace Katsuya Matsuzaki with reigning J-GP2 Champion Ryosuke Iwato, who has been literally “stolen” from Honda. The 21-year-old from Fukuoka Prefecture was expected to remain with HRC following the great performance provided at last year’s Suzuka 8 Hours (where he raced with SuP Dream Honda), but the call he got from Kawasaki has convinced him to join Team Green.
Watanabe and Iwato will ride two 2019-spec Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR machines and use Bridgestone tyres and, of course, they’ll both try to give Kawasaki a title they’ve been missing for a (too) long time…
Translated by Alessandro Palma