“If I get a point I’d be ecstatic, but that’s the goal I’m going for,” said Epis, a fan favourite when he raced in New Zealand during the first part of the pandemic-shortened 2020 NZSBK season.
Epis is no stranger to the WSBK paddock, with 35 races in the FIM Supersport World Championship under his belt between 2016 and 2020.
Epis has spent the 2021 season so far competing in his native Australia in the superbike class in a disrupted campaign caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, with Epis taking a best result of seventh at Wakefield Park.
At the end of 2020, he made his debut in the British championship but failed to score a point in his short cameo in the United Kingdom.
The 21-year-old made 35 appearances in WSSP between 2016 and 2020, scoring a best result of tenth at his home round in 2017 when WSSP took to the iconic Phillip Island circuit.
Epis also had sporadic appearances in the European Junior Cup and Superstock 600 Championships but will now make his WSBK debut at the Hyundai N Catalunya Round and compete with the team for the remainder of the 2021 season.
Epis will join official Kawasaki Racing Team riders Jonathan Rea and Alex Lowes as they shortly begin an unprecedented run of three consecutive WSBK rounds, starting at their team’s home event at the Circuit de Barcelona – Catalunya, from September 17-19.
A truly thrilling and unpredictable 2021 season so far has seen the championship lead contested throughout, with Rea fighting each weekend to try and make it seven championships in succession come the end of the year.
The Barcelona – Catalunya race weekend is an almost literal home event for KRT, with their workshops and offices located just a few hundred metres from the circuit itself, meaning this event has some extra significance for many of the team’s personnel.
As an opportunity to go for race wins and podium finishes the rewards are just as high as any other round in 2021 and Rea arrives at the circuit – also known as Montmelo – looking to overturn a seven-point championship deficit to Turkey’s Toprak Razgatlioglu at the top of the table.
Rea has scored nine race wins already in 2021. He was also the first ever WSBK Race winner at Montmelo last year when the long-term MotoGP circuit was used by WSBK as a competitive venue for the very first time.
A recent mid-season test session at Catalunya, in generally hot conditions, was of great benefit to both KRT riders, although Lowes put in a limited number of laps as he recovered from some niggling injuries. The test also gave Rea and Lowes the chance to ride on the slightly revised Catalunya track layout, which features modifications at Turn 10 compared to the 2020 version.
Despite two falls in the full-distance races at the most recent round in Magny Cours Alex took his first podium since Donington Park in the French Superpole race, boosting his confidence ahead of his team’s home fixture.
The weekend race schedule has been revised for the Barcelona – Catalunya round. WorldSBK Race One takes place in its regular 14.00 time-slot, as does Sunday’s 11.00 ten-lap Superpole race, but Sunday’s full-distance race two now starts at later-than-usual 15.15.
In the championship points table, after eight rounds of a scheduled 13, Rea is second and Lowes fifth.
“It’s exciting to go back to Barcelona, for many reasons. I had a win in the first ever WSBK race there last season and Montmelo is the team’s home round,” said Rea.
“I spend a lot of time there and even during these Covid-19 (pandemic) times we will have a lot of guests and sponsors there, so it will be even more important to be at 100% to do the best job we can.
“The circuit’s really nice, I really enjoy it, especially the new Turn 10, which is much more open than the past and the track has more flow now. We have tested there in the summer and we were able to make a good step with our Ninja ZX-10RR.
It is a circuit that is very critical for tyre wear, so we need to focus on that to be strong at the end of the race. I feel good with our bike and I was able to fight in Magny Cours for the podium and in Barcelona the target will be the same.
“The championship is very close and now we have three rounds in a row, so it is so important to be strong – but also to be consistent and make no mistakes. What happens in these next three weeks will have a big impact on the championship, so I am super-excited to get going.”
Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) will be back in action to continue his progress in his rookie WSBK season, while Isaac Vinales (Orelac Racing VerdNatura Kawasaki) will take part in another home race, as he searches for more championship points.
Belgium’s Loris Cresson (TPR Outdo Kawasaki) will be joined at the Barcelona – Catalunya round by his new team-mate Epis (TPR Outdo Kawasaki).
© Photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ
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