For years Kawasaki has simply been an “also-ran”. Perhaps even THE also-ran in the world or motorcycle roadracing, since every other brand involved seems to be a threat to the podium whilst the back ranks are a sea of neon green.. Upon revealing the new 1000cc Ninja for 2011 (in full race trim, only), Kawasaki hopes to change that.
In the 600/supersport class, Kawasaki has maintained itself at least as a wildcard threat. Aside from Jamie Hacking defying the inevitable for a handful of races, there have been few bright spots in the 1000cc/superbike class since the modern “goldern era”, when Doug Chandler took the AMA title and the machine was considered at least-semi competitive with the Ducatis, Hondas and usual World Superbike (WSBK ) suspects.
On the street, the Ninja literbike has made a strong showing, winning shootouts and always coming in with one of the strongest motors generation after generation. Somehow this just hasn’t been reflected by racing at any level.
After pulling out of MotoGP and ensuing not only a legal controversy but significant embarassment via the admission that they had no hope in hell of winning, Kawasaki announced that they would be focusing on a rising star in the WSBK series.
While MotoGP sees some of its smallest grids ever, most predictable finishing orders, constant threats of team/manufacturer pullouts, and sees its niche evaporate as all GP classes convert to four-strokes, WSBK is setting personal records in popularity and grid size, with some of the closest and most exciting finishes in years to boot.
They’ve also had the likes of BMW, Aprilia, Triumph, and too a lesser degree KTM and MV Agusta join their ranks. WSBK seems to be the wise investment now. As MotoGP machines are neutered and production-based superbikes constantly improve, it seems people are more interested in seeing a bike directly relevant to the one they own pushed to its limits than watching a similar, but completely unobtainable machine pushed to slightly higher limits.
The first year Kawasaki was supposed to “get serious”, 2009, was a severe disappointment. Again, every race seemed to devolve into a vanguard of red and blue with a green roostertail 500 feet behind it. Kawasaki says the 2011 Ninja is a race-focused machine, a throwback to the name’s heritage, a revolution. Technical specs are minimal and only the full-race version has been reveal. Rumors consist of a “big-bang” congifuration motor, heavy electronics, and what has become the usual in a previously Japanese industry turned on its head by the in-their-own-league BMW s1000rr and Aprilia RSV4.