Having confirmed a deal to race for the team only days earlier, Cudlin rode the Dunlop shod ZX10R for the first time during official practice on Friday and immediately put the Kawasaki inside the top 10 in training- a first for the recently formed Weber-Diener Kawasaki Team.
Cudlin qualified 10th on the grid, but showed strong race pace throughout qualifying, giving promise to a climb up the ladder in Sunday’s races.
Perfect condition’s greeted the competitors on race day at Zolder, and the first of two 17 lap races got underway in front of an encouraging crowd.
Cudlin made a stellar start and shot into 5th position, passing the likes of Team Yamaha’s Matej Smrz and Luca Hansen in the early laps. A break-away at the front saw the Ducati’s of Spanish SBK Champion Xavi Fores and former World SBK ace Max Neukirchner open a considerable gap ahead of current German SBK champ, Markus Reiterberger. Smrz overhauled Cudlin while crashes from Bastien Mackels and Michi Ranseder added more drama to the action on track.
By half race distance, Cudlin encountered a braking issue which forced him to limp the bike home to the finish, losing 2 places in the process but securing a 7th place finish nonetheless.
“It’s been a bit frantic this weekend and that race was no different.” Cudlin explained. “We had decent pace in the opening laps but suffered with brake issues and tyre life for the second part of the race. Still, it’s an encouraging result and lot’s of room for improvement in race 2!”
With help from the Ohlins race service, Cudlin and the team opted for a drastic set-up change for race 2 to aid some of the grip issues suffered in the second half of the race. The Ohlins crew of Sven and Laszlo didn’t disappoint and Cudlin immediately showed stronger pace from the start of the second race.
The top three riders broke away from the field, much like in the first race, while a Dunlop battle waged between Cudlin and Suzuki’s Erwan Nigon. Following Nigon’s very wheel tracks for most of the race, Cudlin’s braking issues returned with 6 laps remaining, putting any ‘attack’ for 5th out of his reach. The Aussie crossed the line 6th, securing the best individual results for the Weber-Diener Kawasaki Team in the Superbike class so far.
“I’m satisfied with the results and I think for the first time working together, with no testing beforehand, we should be pretty happy” reflected Cudlin. “The Kawasaki ZX10R is a great machine and my crew chief Kurt Stückler has prepared a beautiful bike for me to ride. We’ve made good progress this weekend and I think there is a lot more potential in the package. I must thank the whole Weber-Diener Kawasaki Team, and of course Evren and Emil for the opportunity to get back on the race track. It feels good to be back. Hopefully this year I can climb back onto those podium steps again too!”