Kawasaki gives a glimpse in to the future of their Ninja superbike with this artist rendering of the 2011 ZX10R.
Every once in a while Kawasaki swings for the fences and comes up with a grand slam. For decades the Ninja has been one of the company’s biggest hits as it has been an icon among both motorcycle enthusiasts and non-motorcycle set alike. If you ask someone to describe a sportbike who generally has no clue, they most likely will say something to the effect of ‘You talking ‘bout one of them Ninjas – them crotch rockets?”
A few years back Kawasaki unveiled the Ninja ZX-10R at Homestead Raceway in Florida. As a young man, my formative years were spent behind the controls of a ZX-7 so I was keen to swing a leg over the big 10R for its anniversary reemergence. The bike went on to take a victory in our Superbike Smackdown and set the stage for some fierce battles with the competing literbikes form Japan in the years to come.
On the race track, Kawasaki made a return to Superbike competition on the national as well as the world scene. Many privateer teams chose to compete aboard the Ninja on road courses and experienced some success. But the World Superbike title that has eluded them over the years was still out of reach.
The next generation was unveiled at the smooth and silky Losail Circuit in Qatar. It was even better, faster and lighter. It gave the competition fits in our subsequent Smackdown comparison tests but it ultimately could only muster a best finish of runner-up.
Kawasaki’s current 2010 Ninja ZX10R faired pretty well in our 2010 Superbike Smackdown. Finishing 6th on the street and 5th at the track.
Back in World Superbike the ZX struggled in the hands of privateers compared to the full factory efforts of the other marques. It proved to be a competitive bike in other areas including the Northwest 200, Isle of Man and a handful of national level series as well. But World Superbike eluded Kawasaki once again. It seems that a change is in order.
Kawasaki just released a sketch of their soon to be released 2011 Ninja ZX-10R. It’s sleek, angular and looking every bit the part of a hard-edged sportbike we have come to expect to see from Kawasaki. The company claims their goal is to win races. So what should we expect from the new ZX-10R? Let’s take a look at the wish list.
At the heart of the improvement would be a new chassis. In the past, racers have struggled to get the previous generation open-classer to handle at the same level as the competition. Many changes to the old design were incorporated during its tenure. They got close but never quite right. If Kawasaki can get the combination of agility and stability close to the competition then maybe, just maybe its ever-present engine could take center stage.
Sportbikes upwards of 180 rear-wheel horsepower these days and we all know that Kawasaki has often been lauded for producing powerful engines over the years. So the only question remaining is what will they do for this bike? A new benchmark has been set by the BMW S1000RR, which claims a whopping 193 hp at the crank and measured 182.83 hp at the rear wheel during our 2010 Superbike Track Comparison. Will Kawasaki push 200 crank hp or choose to go easy on the dyno? What new technologies can they employ that haven’t been seen on many Japanese bikes?
How about sophisticated electronics? At the introduction of the last ZX in Qatar the media folks were keen to point out that the bike has some type of traction control but were adamant that it wasn’t actually called traction control. Expect to see that all change this time around.
The limited info that is available hints at the incorporation of new materials into the design. Carbon fiber, titanium, plastic, fiberglass and aluminum have all been used over the years. What’s next? Kawasaki, we’re ready to see what you have up your sleeve. The mini-site www.kawasaki-challenge.com states that testing will take place at Suzuka Circuit on July 7, 2010. There is also a video and the opportunity to share your thoughts on what the bike might be like on the Twitter page as well.