Reigning World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea says he fully expects the returning Yamaha factory squad to be challenging at the front of the field in 2016.
Yamaha returns to the WSBK fray next year after a four-season absence in a tie-up with the Crescent Racing team, signing 2014 champion Sylvain Guintoli to join Suzuki convert Alex Lowes.
The new YZF-R1 machine has already proven itself with a championship win in the British Superbike series at the hands of Josh Brookes, as well as victory in the Suzuka 8 Hours in July, and Rea is expecting the Japanese factory to be at the sharp end of the field from the outset.
“It’s great for the championship that they have come back,” Rea told the official WSBK website after sampling the 2016 Kawasaki for the first time in last week’s Jerez test.
“They have two very strong riders in Alex and Sylvain: one really young rider with lots of potential and the other mature and an ex-World Champion.
“It’s going be cool because it seems like another manufacturer is going to be in the mix at the front. It’s not just great for them, but it’s great for us.
“Competition is what makes everyone move forward. Hopefully it is good for the Superbike fans, to have two more guys up front.”
New bike “feels great”, says Guintoli
Guintoli, who endured a lacklustre title defence this year with the Honda Ten Kate team, was buoyed by his first taste of the Yamaha during the Jerez test.
“[The test] was very much about getting to grips with the YZF-R1 and the new team, starting to work together and understanding the potential of the bike and what we have to do to make it better,” said the Frenchman.
“What we have to do is to suit it to the World Superbike rulebook and make it good with those rules, but the base is very good: the engine is very smooth and the chassis feels great.
“That is the main important thing for us. We just have to work on the details to find the maximum potential.”
Lowes “excited” by scope to improve
Lowes, meanwhile, was equally positive about his first taste of the new R1, commenting: “My feelings with the bike are really good.
“The engine is really smooth and great to ride. We didn’t work on actually settings too much, but the chassis felt great.
“There is definitely a lot to improve and that is the exciting thing. My job is to work as hard as I can and work with the guys. I have a really, really good bike and good crew behind me.
“With Yamaha Racing, if I work as hard as I can to make the bike as good as it can be, I think we can do a great job. It’s all about starting and building for the first race and for the future.”