The race-winner that could have been. Kawasaki Team Green was the Suzuka 8-Hours favorite coming out of Saturday’s Top 10 qualifying session, and the factory-backed Kawasaki team traded corners with Yamaha during the opening laps of Sunday’s endurance race.
What looked like an upset in the making, turned out to be a fizzle, largely because of a poor fueling and pit stop strategy, which saw Jonathan Rea first run out of gas, and then stay out on slicks during a rain storm.
As he tumbled down the asphalt, you have to wonder if the World Superbike champion saw his Suzuka fortunes tumbling with him.
The 2018 Suzuka 8-Hours endurance race was the biggest effort that we have seen from Kawasaki, which enlisted the help of its future WorldSBK team (Jonathan Rea, Leon Haslam, and part of the KRT pit box), to join the Japanese engineers and All Japan Superbike rider Kazuma Watanabe.
Part of the effort involved honing the specially prepared Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR race bike for the Suzuka 8-Hours, and this included a considerable amount of pre-event testing, with WorldSBK crew chief Pere Ribe overseeing the bike’s development.
Looking up-close at the Suzuka Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR, we can see that extensive changes have been made to the machine, from the headlights to the chassis.
The first thing that caught my eye is the small lithium-ion battery that is tucked inside the fairings. I suspect that this is because the Suzuka 8-Hours Ninja ZX-10RR runs a total-loss electrical system.
This used to be the case on the WorldSBK-spec machine, before the rules forbade it, and removing the generator helped improve handling immensely.
With this battery easily accessible, and apparently on a clip connection, one can imagine that every other stint or so it could be replaced, keeping the bike’s electrical system going. Or maybe, it was just relocated. Only the Kawasaki engineers know the real story.
Admittedly though, the most interesting pieces on the machine are not Kawasaki, but instead are the suspension pieces brought by Showa to the Suzuka 8-Hours.
It is difficult to verify, but there was talk from Japan that the inner forks tubes are made from titanium, in an effort to reduce mass (of note, readers should also see the carbon fiber outer fork tubes that Öhlins has been developing).
The alternative would be some sort of coating or treatment to increase the material hardness, which helps lower friction and initial stiction.
The rear shock looks the most interesting, however, and of note is how many battle scars are on it from extended use. Note the carbon fiber panels that shield the rear shock as well, possibly for aerodynamic streamlining.
Brakes are by Brembo, and include “T-bar” floating rotors up front. Unsurprisingly, the rubber is provided by Bridgestone. The exhaust is a full titanium unit
Go ahead and enjoy these detailed photos, we left them in their original resolution for you.
Photos: © 2018 Steve English – All Rights Reserved
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