Next year will feel like the early 1990s all over again because the Japanese are back in force with limited-edition Rs, double Rs and SPs. All hail the return of the homologation special.
Yamaha already have their R1-M, but for 2017 there’ll be a new GSX-R1000R, Fireblade SP2 and now, from Kawasaki, the ZX-10RR. Prices haven’t been finalised but expect the Kawasaki to be around £16,249, that’s £1900 more than the standard ZX-10R.
In true homologation style, the reason the ZX-10RR exists is World Superbike racing. Next year the rules become even more restrictive and more towards Superstock spec, so Kawasaki have modified the cylinder head to accept higher-lift cams, given the tappets a Diamond-Like Carbon coating and strengthened the crankcases to make it more robust when the motor is tuned.
The RR also has lightweight forged aluminium Marchesini wheels, an autoblipper, Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP tyres (the ZX-10R has Bridgestone RS10s), track-focused suspension settings and RR logos. It comes as a single seater in black ‘winter testing’ colours.
The engine mods make no difference to performance, so it makes the same claimed 197bhp as the standard bike. It also weighs the same 206kg.
To show what the RR is capable of, Kawasaki tweaked our test bike for our test at Aragon, with a race kit harness and ECU with fuelling set-up on a dyno and on track. They also ripped out the ABS and fitted steel braided lines. There’s a full Akrapovic race exhaust with titanium tubes and a carbon can, kit head angle adjusters (down from 24° to 23.5°), and a 1mm shim on the rear shock to jack the back of the bike up.
Fork rebound and compression were backed off a quarter of a turn to make them softer and the shock rebound is up half a turn to make it harder. And finally we’ve got full race Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SC1 compound tyres to play on. With this set-up the Kawasaki is a whole different animal on track.
The stock ZX-10R isn’t slow, but against its rivals you notice a lack of grunt off corners, slow direction changes and podgy brakes. But with its exhaust and race ECU the RR delivers arm-wrenching mid-range grunt and punches out of corners like a bike with this kind of power should.
You still get a beautifully plush ride through the Showa suspension, but now the Ten is more agile through the corners, grippier and more accurate with its race tyres fitted. The race kit gives the traction control and anti-wheelie a more satisfying feel, popping and rasping every time you bump into the electronics. The extra racket it makes lets you know it’s working and loads you with extra confidence.
We would’ve liked a bit more ‘RR’ specialness from the engine and chassis, but that aside, this is the best road-going superbike Kawasaki have ever built.
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