The Kawasaki H2 of the 1970s was a 750cc, 3-cylinder, 2-stroke widowmaker with a reputation as one of the maddest things on two wheels – so when Team Green started teasing us with the idea of a new H2 for 2015, we expected it to be pretty special. Even so, hype is so common these days and the final product is so often underwhelming that we kept our expectations in check. It turns out we needn't have bothered, because when the covers came off at Intermot Cologne today, the Ninja H2R's spec sheet was beyond our wildest dreams.
Production street motorcycles like the BMW S1000R and the Ducati Panigale have been edging their way towards 200 horsepower over the last few years. Anyone who's ridden one can attest that those kinds of power figures feel absolutely psychotic on a sub-200kg motorcycle. The 2015 Ninja H2R will beat that figure by fifty trouser-soiling percent.
With its supercharged, 998cc, inline four cylinder engine, the H2R will make 300 horsepower. Let that thought sink in for a minute. Marc Marquez's championship-leading MotoGP bike is some 30 horsepower shy of that figure. This, Kawasaki tells us, is not some conceptual flight of fancy, it's a production machine – and the only one from a major manufacturer to feature forced induction for many years.
It will not, however, be road legal. The H2R will be a track special, with its H2 roadgoing brother to be revealed at EICMA in November – featuring the same supercharged engine, but presumably in a different state of tune. The H2R features a high tensile steel trellis frame, painted a wicked Kwaka green, and three sets of carbon fiber wings on the fairings, presumably to help keep the front wheel planted under a ridiculous onslaught of power.
Care has clearly gone into the design details. This looks like a premium product that's beautifully engineered, and will likely be priced stratospherically and made in limited numbers.
Little else has been revealed at this stage – brakes are Brembo radial monoblocs as they damn well better be, swing arm is single sided, suspension is fully adjustable KYB gear and no doubt the ABS and traction control systems will be top-shelf. It almost doesn't matter. Kawasaki hasn't just fired a broadside in the horsepower war, it has planted a flag so far from its competitors that I'm not sure if they should respond at all.
Three hundred horsepower, in a feather-light superbike package without a drag-style stretched swingarm ... honestly, 180 horses is enough to melt my feeble brain. I can't even conceptualize what 300 would feel like, or how and where you could possibly reef that throttle hard enough to find out. By gum I'd like to give it a go, though.
...and I did. The roadgoing version, at least. Here, look!