It isn’t very often that this kind of buzz happens in the World Superbikes paddock. But the serious injuries suffered by factory Kawasaki rider Joan Lascorz in the test at Imola have made it necessary for Kawasaki to look for another rider to take Lascorz’s place, since the contract that it has signed with Infront the promoter of World Superbikes makes it mandatory for the factory team to have two riders and bikes at all the races. The last race at Assen was seen as an exception but from the next race on it is imperative that Kawasaki field a second bike and rider.
This year Kawasaki have had a great start; by far the best in many seasons. Tom Sykes has been the man who has been in the thick of the action doing well at the first two race weekends but suffering at Assen with a blown radiator that forced retirement in the first race and bad wet weather set up that saw him only finish in sixth place. A couple of years ago or even last year sixth for Kawasaki would have been considered great but with the bar raised for this year that is seen as a disappointment. Joan Lascorz while being a talented rider has not matched the pace of Sykes in the first two events and the crash at Imola has probably destroyed his race career once and for all. Though Provec, the Spanish team that manages the factory Kawasaki Racing effort has not been very forthcoming about the actual situation of the rider, news leaks from other sources have suggested that Lascorz’s arms and hands are paralyzed due to a spinal injury. Subsequent reports have suggested that Lascorz may get movement in his arms back but the doctors attending to him are not too confident of movement returning to his hands.
Whatever the long term prognosis for Lascorz maybe it is clear that he is not likely to return to racing at least for this year. Kawasaki have quietly started searching for a replacement for Lascorz and since Provec is a Spanish team they want a Spanish rider. Lascorz himself is a Spaniard. There have been rumours that David Salom who now rides for Pedercini Kawasaki in World Superbikes has been approached and that he has turned down the offer, citing reasons of loyalty to Lucio Pedercini who has given Salom a ride when he did not have one. Salom is not only a Spaniard but also has worked with Provec in the past when Provec was managing the Kawasaki World Supersport effort till last year. If this bit of news about Salom refusing the offer is true then Kawasaki will have to look for other riders.
The rumour mill the World Superbikes paddock has gone into overdrive predictably. The riders who are now being touted as possible replacements are Luca Scassa, Anthony West and Noriyuki Haga. Anthony West had connections with Kawasaki when he rode for them in MotoGP but that was when the team was managed by Michael Bartholemy who now manages Marc VDS team in Moto2. At the beginning of the season West was offered at ride by the Speed Master team on their Aprilia ART CRT motorcycle but was jettisoned when he could not cough up sponsorship monies. That saw West ending up in British Superbikes before he got a call from the QMMF Moto2 team to replace fellow Australian Damian Cudlin. West had been happy in Moto2 riding in the past two seasons on an MZ chassis powered by the controlled Honda engine. It is most unlikely that he will move to World Superbikes so soon. The other two riders supposedly in contention are Haga and Scassa both of whom are riding in the British Superbikes series.
Scassa has ridden with privateer Pedercini team using the Kawasaki ZX10R in the year 2009 and his performances were not very impressive. Haga has been a frontline rider in World Superbikes first with Yamaha and then with Ducati before being forsaken by the World Superbikes paddock. He is definitely the most talented Superbike rider to never win a World title; the Stirling Moss of World Superbikes. But Haga has plenty of experience and natural talent and even more importantly he has won many races and one occasion came close to clinching the World title itself. He would be good for Kawasaki especially now that it is on the upswing. But will he be released from his BSB contract and more importantly does Kawasaki want to invest in a 40+ aged rider are the questions that need to be answered.