CHRIS WALKER

‘I was wor­ried Ke­nan So­fuoglu would be rid­ing with no leathers’

Performance Bikes (UK) - - Bsb Hero -

THE BIG NEWS this month is that my Kawasaki shop has won an MCN award! I’ve been try­ing to win one of those things for about 22 years as a rider, and it’s great to be recog­nised. What’s funny is Kawasaki only won two awards this year – one was for my shop, the other was for the JL125 scooter, which is ac­tu­ally made by Kymco...

But it should be a good 2017. There are some fan­tas­tic new Kawasakis com­ing – I can’t wait to try the new Z1000SX; that’s our best-seller. We’ve also got the Z900, the Z650, and a Ninja 650 that looks a bit like an H2 – bet it doesn’t sound like one! And the new ZX-10RR – can’t wait to get one of those. Ver­sys 300, which is a great idea for an en­try-level ad­ven­ture bike. Not every­one who wants a smaller en­gine also wants a smaller bike, so that’s good for taller guys.

Speak­ing of the new 300, the new 300cc class in World Su­per­bikes next year should be good. They need to do some­thing – the cham­pi­onship isn’t what it was a decade ago. And that’s not down to the rac­ing or qual­ity of the field, be­cause that’s phe­nom­e­nal. It’s just too sim­i­lar to Mo­toGP, with where the bikes are at. And there’s less man­u­fac­turer sup­port in Su­pers­port than ever. Some­times you have to make a change. BSB did it with the con­trol ECU and the Show­down for­mat – since then it’s been amaz­ing. next year in BSB, but to me it’s just like rid­ers; teams come and go. Ev­ery­thing has a life­span. Like the ti­tle spon­sors we’ve had in the past. Cad­bury’s came in and did a mega job, stayed for four years, then pulled out and moved on to Corona­tion Street. We had Mo­tor­point for years, but now they spon­sor cy­cling. Spon­sor­ship has a life-cy­cle and you can only buy so many Mil­wau­kee or Tyco jack­ets. If you look where BSB is now com­pared to where it was five years ago, to lose a cou­ple of teams is a shame, but it’s not life-threat­en­ing. It’s los­ing the char­ac­ters that’s the hard part. Mark Smith-Halvorsen was my team man­ager in 2014 and what a char­ac­ter to have in the pad­dock. With the likes of Paul Bird, Jack Valen­tine, Stu­art Hicken, Martin Hal­sall – they’re big char­ac­ters, and Mark was one of the big­gest.

For me, the ques­tion mark at the mo­ment is over Tommy Hill’s team. They’ve lost their spon­sor, ePayMe – or as they’re known in the pad­dock, ’eNotPayMe – and Tommy’s put a lot of ef­fort in over the years. There’s a lot goes on be­hind the scenes but it’s not quite hap­pened, with rid­ers get­ting in­jured and the bike not per­form­ing. But they de­serve to be rac­ing. He’s des­per­ate to be there and is just strug­gling to find a spon­sor.

Things are evolv­ing in WSB, too, with the new naked class po­ten­tially re­plac­ing Su­pers­port for 2018. When I heard about it, I was wor­ried Ke­nan So­fuoglu would be rid­ing around with no leathers on! Then I re­alised they meant go­ing back to the Ed­die Law­son era. But with naked bikes mak­ing up such a big part of what peo­ple ride on the road, why shouldn’t they race them? And you can see so much more of what’s go­ing on, with them all bash­ing bars. It’ll make great view­ing, and with the race­bikes be­ing all tricked out, that’ll get peo­ple ex­cited about af­ter­mar­ket stuff again. Great for busi­ness, great for bikes and great for TV. It’s an ex­cit­ing time!

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