ZX-10R: Trackside with Kawasaki at round one of the 2011 World Superbikes
Going really fast and riding motorcycles seems to be a genetic link going back to when a motor was first bolted on to a pushbike at the start of the last century. Just about every boy – and let's not deny it, man – who throws his leg over a motorcycle has the adrenaline rush of a Mike Hailwood or Valentino Rossi coursing through his veins.
Perhaps that's why Kawasaki have paid the ultimate tribute to this romantic notion of the racing motorcycle in a very unusual move for a giant mass-market manufacturer by starting the design process for its flagship ZX-10R sportsbike on the racetrack. Unusual because, for a consumer retail model of a motorcycle that's planned to sell in the many ten's of thousands of units in many different countries with many different road surfaces (and many different speeding laws!!!), starting from a pure-bred racebike is not what they usually do.
As you expect, the new 2011 Kawasaki ZX-10R is new in every sense of the word and not just a clone-like new release from an old design that we so often expect from the big manufacturers ever year – with the occasional breakthrough feature in one brand or another vying for our attention. It's a brand new model with a brand new frame, 200hp engine, Showa suspension and a grab bag of the highest-tech electronics riding aids.
Together they make it the fastest and most most technically advanced motorcycle ever released by the Japanese industrial behemoth – and, as you would expect from the bike's racing pedigree, amongst the most advanced by any manufacturer, large or small.
Its bundle of electronic and mechanical advantages are all designed to make it easier for the average biker to ride fast but, paradoxically, they also bring a new level of complexity and potential confusion to Kawasaki's World Superbike factory team, home to MotoGP winner and WorldSBK and Supersport legend, Chris Vermeulan, along with team mates Tom Sykes and Joan Lascorz.
Kawasaki's Tom Sykes at Phillip Island during round one of the 2011 WorldSBK
To give us an insight on what it takes to keep abreast of these vast technological strides we talked with Chris and his team manager, Paul Risbridger, at Phillip Island for the Australian opening round of the 2011 WorldSBK season (although, disappointingly, in a last minute decision he had to pull out of racing this weekend at his home round while he continues his long, hard rehab from last year's major knee surgery).
For a pitside view of the new ZX-10R, have a look as Kawasaki team manager Paul Rasbridger walks us through it.