We are big Kawasaki fans here at Faster and Faster, so we feel pretty sorry for the poor show they’ve put up in MotoGP this year. Is it the riders? With Shinya Nakano having left for Honda, can Olivier Jacque and Randy de Puniet really stand up against the likes of Stoner and Rossi? Or is it the bike? Have Kawasaki put in enough time and money in developing their MotoGP racer?
Well, Kawasaki’s problem might not be their bike. Most MotoGP insiders seem to think the Ninja ZX-RR is not such a bad machine. Speaking to Crash.net, Kawasaki Racing Team communications manager, Ian Wheeler says, ‘The development of the Ninja ZX-RR has been fairly rapid over the past few months. The bike we rolled out for pre-season testing was competitive from the off, because the fundamental design was good. However, it was pretty obvious straightaway that there was a top speed deficit when you compared our bike to the Yamaha and, especially, the Ducati.’
Sure enough, the Ducati’s speed and power has left all the Japanese teams stunned this year. But what are Kawasaki doing about dealing with the situation? Says Wheeler, ‘After Jerez, we tested some minor modifications to the fuel injection system and the electronics package, which gave us an increase in power of around six horsepower. The changes also allowed us to increase our rev limit by a significant amount, without impacting fuel consumption. At the Chinese Grand Prix, we tested some more modifications to the engine and fuel injection system that offered a further increase of six horsepower. The results could be clearly seen with the top speed figures at the end of the 1.2km straight in Shanghai, where Randy and Olivier were regularly in the top five through the speed trap.’
So despite Kawasaki riders de Puniet and Olivier being at the very back of the MotoGP pack right now, Wheeler believes the ZX-RR is as good as Yamaha, Honda, Suzuki and Ducati machines? He says, ‘At this point in time, I would say that our Ninja ZX-RR is on a par with the Yamaha and the Ducati, although the Ducati still has a significant advantage when it comes to top speed. The results might say otherwise at the moment, but I think we're currently ahead of both Honda and Suzuki.’
So all they need is a good rider then. With new riders – fast, aggressive, young riders – from the 250cc class coming to MotoGP in 2008, perhaps some of the old timers would be looking at other opportunities. How would the Ninja ZX-RR do, with Colin Edwards and/or Loris Capirossi riding the bike? If Max Biaggi also comes back to MotoGP with Alstare Suzuki, the oldies could be having one hell of a battle in 2008…Also see:
Memorable: The Kawasaki ZXR750
Freddie Spencer: The Sultan of Slide
NitroDuke: The world's fastest KTM!
Bikes vs Cars: One more round...
Memorable: The Kawasaki Ninja ZX-12R
Cruiser gone bad: The Suzuki B-King!
Hyper-tourer: The Kawasaki 1400GTR