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The new Kawasaki Ninja ZX-RR

The new Kawasaki Ninja ZX-RR

The new Kawasaki Ninja ZX-RR

Kenichi Furuhashi joined Kawasaki Heavy Industries Co. Ltd in 1985, initially working on chassis design for Kawasaki's class leading performance street motorcycles.

During his career with Kawasaki, Furuhashi-san has been involved in the design and development of Kawasaki's flagship sports bikes, including the Ninja ZX-10R and the Ninja ZX-6RR.

In 2005 Furuhashi-san moved to head up Kawasaki's MotoGP project, taking on responsibility for the development of the 2006 Ninja ZX-RR MotoGP machine. Here he gives his views on the bike in an interview.

When did you start the development process for the new Ninja ZX-RR?

We started development in February 2005, because we knew we'd need a completely new bike if we were to be competitive during the 2006 season. Originally we intended to race the new bike at the final race of 2005, but we didn't quite hit our target. We had the new bike at Valencia, but it didn't make it's track debut until three days after the race, when Olivier Jacque tested it around Valencia.

What were the main design goals for the 2006 Ninja ZX-RR?

We had several specific goals for the new bike, but the overriding aim was to improve the performance of the whole package - engine, chassis and the electronics package together. Obviously we needed a new engine that produced more power than the old one, but we also wanted to improve driveability to make the bike easier to ride for Shinya and Randy.

We also wanted to reduce the stresses the old bike placed on the rear tyre, as this would give us more options when it came to tyre selection for the 2006 races.

On the chassis side, our goal was to find a more neutral feeling from the chassis than we had with the 2005 Ninja ZX-RR.

How have you achieved these goals with the new engine?

We've reduced the physical length of the new engine by rotating the gearbox up behind the cylinders, and this gives us more options when it comes to positioning the engine in the chassis. From this we have been able to achieve the neutral feeling of the new chassis.

The new engine also revs higher and produces significantly more power than the previous version, although we are confident that we can liberate even more power as the season progresses and development continues.

Of course, we didn't know whether we'd achieved our design aims until Olivier Jacque tested the first prototype at Valencia, but from his comments then, and Shinya and Randy's comments since, I think we've achieved what we set out to do a year ago.

How much more powerful is the new engine compared to the old one?

We don't want to be too specific about the actual figures, but I can say that the new engine produces significantly more power than the old. But power isn't everything; it's important that the engine produces this power in a way that the riders can use, that the engine retains good driveability, and this is something that we've spent a lot of develop time optimising.

Reliability is also an important issue, especially when you're trying to coax more power from an engine, and a lot of our development time has been spent addressing this issue. The new engine has undergone extensive reliability testing in Japan, including track tests with our Japanese test rider, Naoki Matsudo.

And what changes have been made to the chassis for 2006?

The chassis is not so different to that used in 2005, because there were many good points about this chassis. For this reason the basic geometry remains very similar, but it is more compact. The reduction in physical size has been made possible because the new engine is also more compact that than the old one.

We've also invested a lot of time in the aerodynamic performance of the new bike. The aerodynamics performance of a motorcycle is always a compromise because, unlike a car, a motorcycle moves through the vertical axis when turning. In this way it is more like an aeroplane than a car.

MotoGP, 2006, Kawasaki Racing Team

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