As the foundation of Kawasaki’s approach to WorldSBK, the Ninja ZX-10RR has been through many stages of development, first as the Ninja ZX-10R and most recently in its RR status. Homologated as a base machine for World Superbike racing, the Ninja HanZX-10RR is the brainchild of KHI’s Yoshimoto Matsuda.
The most recent base model homologation for WorldSBK use occurred for 2019, with key elements of the engine on the RR road machine given a performance boost that brought benefits both on and off the racetrack.
Titanium connecting rods were introduced, reducing overall engine inertia and allowing a higher rev-range. As a stock machine the ZX-10RR gained an extra 600rpm at the top of the rev range. This allowed the WorldSBK specification engine to regain some of the top-level performance it lost under unwelcome changes to the technical regulations introduced for the 2018 season.
A finger follower valve actuation system was also adopted in 2019 to compliment the greater available engine revs, featuring a DLC (Diamond-Like Carbon) coating on the followers to reduce friction and enhance durability.
There is no new base model homologation for the 2020 season but the flow of development parts and ideas never ceases in the quest for greater performance. Hence the 2020 WorldSBK machine has been undergoing track tests of new components and ideas since the end of another successful campaign in 2019.
In historical terms, the ZX-10R reached a new career zenith in 2013 when Tom Sykes and the Kawasaki Racing Team won the WorldSBK championship. During that year the Ninja ZX-10R was the bike to have in WorldSBK, achieving ten victories over fourteen hard fought rounds of racing. Sykes proved a multiple winner and teammate Loris Baz also mounted the top step of the podium on one occasion.
Come the 2014 season and the litre class Ninja placed Tom Sykes second in the SBK Riders’ championship, delivering eight race wins for the gritty Yorkshireman. In the Superstock 1000 FIM Cup the Ninja came close to winning the title also.
Rea’s championship win in 2015 delivered total domination and with the two official KRT machines inside the top three finishing places, the bike proved versatile in the extreme.
The 1-2 result in 2016 for Rea and Sykes on the all-new Ninja enhanced the reputation of the ZX-10R, while podium success also followed the path of the new bike into the Superstock 1000 FIM Cup class. Cut to 2017 and Rea delivered a stunning third championship in a row cementing his relationship with the mighty Ninja and securing his place among the Superbike elite.
Subsequent championship wins in 2018 and 2019 for Rea re-confirmed his and his machine’s legendary status. Even early season threats in the form of a serious new challenge from Alvaro Bautista and the 2019 Ducati could not deflect Rea or his Ninja ZX-10RR from their winning championship trajectory last season.
With 17 race wins for Rea and two more from eventual independent riders’ champion Toprak Razgatlioglu the 2019 season served to double underline that once more Kawasaki’s Ninja ZX-10RR had shown itself to be the bike to beat.