2015 Kawasaki Ninja H2R First Look

September 30, 2014
Bart Madson
By Bart Madson
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Bashing away at the MotoUSA keyboard for nine years now, Madson lends his scribbling and editorial input on everything from bike reviews to industry analysis and motorcycle racing reports.

After a month-long teaser campaign hyping its forthcoming H2, Kawasaki finally revealed its new Ninja at the Intermot show. And does it live up to the hype? Well, the supercharged Kawasaki H2R claims 300 horsepower…

The H2 takes its name from the 750cc two-stroke Triple Kawasaki produced in the early ‘70s, a bike that ushered in a new era of engine performance in production bikes. This latest iteration appears set to do the same with its 998cc Inline Four. Team Green heralds the H2R as “flagship for the Kawasaki brand,” which highlights technology developments from several divisions within the Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI) conglomerate.

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SUPERCHARGED INLINE FOUR

The H2’s headlining 300 hp claim is made possible by the use of forced induction. (The H2’s mind-boggling 300 hp power claim is stated in Kawasaki PR with the qualifiers “in the region of,” “around” and “approx”.) A centrifugal supercharger, developed in-house with assistance from KHI’s aerospace division, feeds the H2’s liquid-cooled Inline Four. Kawasaki press materials don’t provide details on the supercharger or engine, so updates will follow. Presumably, the H2 will source a laundry list of electronic aids including the traction control and tunable ABS already showcased on much of Kawasaki’s model lineup.

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HIGH-SPEED CHASSIS

Any expectations that the high-speed H2 would opt for a longer chassis design are quashed by a design that looks every bit the Kawasaki superbike. Except, that is, for the eye-catching steel trellis frame, which replaces the typical aluminum frame found on its Ninja siblings. Noting the requirement for both stiffness and flex in the frame, Kawasaki press materials say of the steel trellis design: “It provided both the strength to harness the incredible power of the supercharged engine, and balanced flex to help stability for high-speed competition riding.”

Details in the press release regarding the chassis are as sparse as the engine. A single-sided swingarm is evident, as are radial-mount Brembo calipers. The Bridgestone slicks and remaining running gear appear ready to back up the “competition riding” claims. More details to follow.

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AERODYNAMICS

Engineers designing for higher speeds must battle wind resistance, as there comes a point where raw horsepower can’t overcome the simple force of drag (as many land speed racers will attest). This is where aerodynamics come into play, and the 300-hp H2 is fitted with bodywork developed with Kawasaki’s aerospace division that “both minimized aerodynamic drag and increased stability when riding at speed.”

The most dramatic pieces of the carbon fiber bodywork are the wing-like, downward sloping fins flanking the windscreen and mid fairing. Wind tunnel design also played a hand in the carbon fiber cowling/upper fairing, which channels air into the Ram Air duct and supercharger. The liberal use of carbon fiber is complemented by a mirror black chrome paint developed specifically for the H2.

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PRODUCTION STATUS

Kawasaki bills its latest Ninja as a closed-course production model, stating: “Although the Ninja H2R will be a production motorcycle, its huge horsepower means it is only available as a closed-course model. Fitted with slick racing tires, it may not be ridden on public roads and should only be ridden by experienced riders.”

Not street legal? Is it because this H2R would rip up the so-called gentleman’s agreement by the OEMs to restrict production models to a 186 mph (300 km/h) top speed? Maybe, maybe not. While Kawasaki press material specify the H2R “is a closed-course model; it may not be ridden on public roads”, the note right below states “The Ninja H2R is a mass-production model.” And right below that? Kawasaki says: “The street model (Ninja H2) will be released at EICMA.”

Kawasaki has laid down the forced induction Superbike gauntlet with a staggering 300 hp claim. The big question now is “what’s next?” And not just from Kawasaki at EICMA, but from the rest of the motorcycle industry as well.

 

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