April 18, 2002 - Fuchs Kawasaki To Field Six Riders At Sugo
Kawasaki are out in force for the fourth round of the World Superbike Championship at Sugo, with Akira Yanagawa and Eric Bostrom, the factoryÂ´s lead riders in the All Japan and AMA Superbike Championships, joining Hitoyasu Izutsu and Chris Walker in the Fuchs Kawasaki Superbike team for this weekendÂ´s event.
For Hitoyasu Izutsu, returning to the circuit at which he took a double World Superbike win in 2000, confidence is high for the weekend ahead.
Â´I have been looking forward to this weekend since the start of the season,Â´ said Izutsu, who went on to win the Japanese Superbike Championship off the back of his Sugo double victory two years ago. Â´I like the Sugo circuit, IÂ´ve won here before and, of all the tracks weÂ´ve visited so far this season, I think this is the one that suits me and the Kawasaki best. Circuit knowledge is very important here and I definitely know my way around Sugo better than most. Whether I can repeat the success I had in 2000 remains to be seen, but I am confident that IÂ´ll be a lot closer to the front runners this weekend than I have been in previous races.Â´
Chris Walker made his first appearance for Fuchs Kawasaki at Sugo, racing in the final round of the All Japan Superbike series shortly after signing for the team at the end of 2001, and the 30-year-old British rider is confident that he can continue the steady improvement that heÂ´s achieved over the previous three rounds of the championship.
Â´IÂ´m excited about racing here at Sugo again,Â´ said Walker. Â´WeÂ´ve made real progress with the bike since the start of the season and, although it wasnÂ´t really reflected in the results, I felt I rode my best races so far at Kyalami. ItÂ´s going to be a tough race, especially with four factory Kawasaki riders and a handful of very fast wild cards on the grid, but I like the Sugo circuit and IÂ´m definitely looking forward to the weekend ahead.Â´
A veteran of the Fuchs Kawasaki World Superbike team, Akira Yanagawa returned to Japan at the end of the 2001 season to help develop the Ninja ZX-RR four-stroke machine that Kawasaki will make their return to the GP series with in 2003. A firm favourite with World Superbike fans, Yanagawa is looking forward to making a temporary return to the series at Sugo.
Â´It will be good to race in World Superbikes again,Â´ said Yanagawa. Â´I havenÂ´t raced at this level since the final round of 2001 but, as well as being heavily involved with the development of KawasakiÂ´s MotoGP machine, IÂ´ve also been riding in the All Japan Superbike series as a way of keeping race fit. I picked up a podium finish in the domestic series last weekend, but World Superbikes is definitely a step up in terms of competition. It will make a pleasant change to be able to forget the development work for a little while and concentrate fully on the racing here at Sugo.Â´
Like his temporary team-mate, Chris Walker, Eric Bostrom made the trip out to Sugo to race in the final round of the 2001 All Japan Superbike Championship, and the American is happy to be back in Japan.
Â´With the settings weâ€™ve come up with recently, we should be in the ball park here at Sugo,Â´ said Bostrom. Â´I really enjoy the racetrack, thatâ€™s for sure. You know, I hope to win the thing, but I realise itâ€™s going to be a tough job. All the guys are on top of their game, the wild card guys especially, but I really think we can make it interesting.Â´
The Fuchs Kawasaki Superbike pit garage may be bursting at the seams with riders, but itÂ´s business as usual for the teamÂ´s two Supersport contenders, Andrew Pitt and James Ellison, this weekend.
Â´It promises to be an interesting weekend,Â´ said Pitt, the reigning champion and current series leader. Â´IÂ´ve won the last two races and people are starting to ask me whether I can do what Bayliss has done in Superbikes and dominate the series. ItÂ´s not something IÂ´ve given much thought to and, to be honest, IÂ´m not sure itÂ´s possible to dominate the Supersport championship in the same way as the Superbikes, because the front-runners are just too closely matched. But, having said that, we had a podium here last year and the bike is definitely stronger this season. If we can find a good set-up and a race tyre in practice and qualifying, then thereÂ´s no reason why I shouldnÂ´t continue my winning streak this weekend. ThatÂ´s definitely what IÂ´ll be aiming for anyway.Â´
Since arriving in Japan, Pitt has had to field numerous questions from the press about the importance of a good result at Sugo; and what effect doing well at this particular round - at which representatives from the Kawasaki factory will be present - might have on his chances of landing a MotoGP ride on KawasakiÂ´s new Ninja ZX-RR in 2003.
Â´ItÂ´s important that I go well at every round, not just this one,Â´ declared the Australian. Â´For sure, I want the Kawasaki GP ride as much as anyone, but I figure that the best way of putting myself in contention is not just to impress at Sugo, but to retain the World title that I won for the factory last season. So, although IÂ´m sure that the people from Kawasaki who are responsible for making the decision about riders for next season will be here this weekend, I donÂ´t intend to let that distract me from the job at hand; which is racking up enough points to ensure that I leave Sugo with my championship lead intact.Â´
Having fallen victim to another riderÂ´s mistake in South Africa and crashed out of the race, James Ellison is keen to make amends at Sugo.
Â´IÂ´ve never ridden here before, but I ran round the track a couple of times on Wednesday and I definitely like the look of the place,Â´ said Ellison, the reigning European Superstock Champion. Â´We made some big improvements to the bike in South Africa, finding a set-up that better suits my riding style, and that should stand us in good stead for practice and qualifying here at Sugo. ItÂ´s going to be tough - Supersport races always are - but if I can qualify a bit higher up the grid than I have done previously, then IÂ´m confident of picking up a few more championship points here this weekend.Â´