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 (which is the main street bike offering from Kawasaki and will be actively promoted by KRT across the racing season) and most recently in the RR version. Extensively updated for 2021 the latest Ninja ZX-10RR features a host of competition focused components and is homologated for FIM Superbike World Championship racing.
The first major update since the 2019 model, the 2021 Ninja ZX-10RR features a plethora of road and race oriented improvements, from its striking new bodywork to key internal components such as Pankl connecting rods, pistons and piston pins.
A purposeful new front profile features a large intake area for the ram-air system and, for the first time, the Ninja ZX-10RR features internal front winglets that provide approximately 17% of extra downforce making corner entry more predictable while adding a new level of straight-line stability. Improvements in the rear aerodynamic package, including slots on the reshaped seat unit, also contribute to an overall 7% improvement in the drag coefficient.
Inside the engine several steps have been taken to raise the peak power of the homologated machine by increasing the overall rev-ceiling by 500rpm. WorldSBK regulations demand that final peak revs on tuned engines are directly linked to power figures obtained from the road-going RR machine. Raising the starting point on the base model is therefore essential to maximise peak revs and therefore the ultimate power figure in WorldSBK mode.
A finger follower valve actuation system continues inside the 2021 engine design to compliment the even greater engine revs with a DLC (Diamond-Like Carbon) coating present on the followers reducing friction and enhancing durability.
The new ride-by-wire style 47mm throttle bodies are coupled lightweight pistons with their attendant reduction in reciprocating mass allowing the engine to rev more freely, produce greater power while also giving the rider the chance to hold on to each gear ratio for longer.
In chassis terms, as well as the usual improvements to the approved WorldSBK racing components a 1mm lower stock swingarm pivot point has been adopted, allowing more adjustability for race use plus a wider handlebar stance and new footpeg mountings. (For the RR this pivot point is adjustable via special mounting plates).
In historical terms, the original ancestor to the 2021 RR model, 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.
Come the 2014 season and the litre class Ninja placed Tom Sykes second in the WorldSBK 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, in his debut year as a Ninja ZX-10R rider delivered total domination and with the two official KRT machines inside the top three finishing places, the bike proved versatile in the extreme. In fact Rea won on his first outing on the machine at the Phillip Island season opener, a sign of what was to come.
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 this machine’s legendary status. Even early season threats in the form of a serious new challenge from Alvaro Bautista could not deflect Rea or his Ninja ZX-10RR from their winning championship trajectory. 17 race wins for Rea and two more from eventual independent riders’ champion Toprak Razgatlioglu served to double underline that once more Kawasaki’s Ninja ZX-10RR was the bike to beat.
In 2020 the KRT Ninja ZX-10RR riders, Rea and new signing Alex Lowes, each scored a race win in the opening WorldSBK round in Australia. Global pandemic concerns led to a long interruption thereafter, and finally a shortened season. The intense European-based restart saw Rea maximise the bike’s potential to win his sixth successive title and get to within one win of the magic total of 100 career race victories. On the 2021 model, with Rea and Lowes back in the KRT pit garage again, expectations are high that more success will arrive for the most successful contemporary WorldSBK machine and one that shares considerable DNA with the machines now on display in Kawasaki dealerships.