Making full use of Team riders Jonathan Rea and Alex Lowes, the Kawasaki factory have tested numerous ideas across a season that saw Rea secure a historic sixth consecutive world Championship to add truly “race developed” features to both litre class Ninjas for 2021.
Concentrating on genuine performance and engineering upgrades and focusing on delivering a machine to win on track and set the Supersport standard on road, Kawasaki engineers have prioritised an innovative aerodynamic package for 2021 combined with handling and ergonomic upgrades supported by new engineering tech “under the skin”.
In terms of aerodynamics the target word is “downforce” with innovate integrated winglets incorporated into the structure of the cowling ducting the airstream and creating additional downforce which is approximately 17% greater than the current Ninja machine. Likewise, the design of the rear seat is subtly changed to create an area of low pressure behind the rider. When combined with a 40mm higher screen, a handlebar position that replicates that of Jonathan Rea’s race bike and 5mm higher foot-pegs, the aero and ergonomic package is just one of the “next step” WorldSBK features for 2021. Inside the new cowling innovations continue with a race style TFT dash (including Bluetooth connectivity), four handlebar button selectable rider modes and road rider features like electronic cruise control and optional heated handlebar grips.
Chassis updates include a 1mm lower swing-arm pivot point (adjustable on the RR), 2mm greater front fork offset and an 8mm increase in actual swing-arm length all contributing to increased stability and greater traction. Spring rates have changed too with the front now softer and the rear harder while a wider fork clamping area for the lower triple-clamp revises the rigidity balance for the fork outer tubes.
The job of slowing this agile beast on track and road for 2021 is ably handled by a suite of Brembo items encompassing M50 monobloc calipers, ø330 mm semi-floating front discs and a radial pump master cylinder (with race-quality steel-braided lines on the RR). And the “see and be seen” element for the new season is catered for thanks to all LED lighting utilising direct projection unit headlamps from Mitsubishi; their luminous optical modules being adopted for motorcycle use for the very first time.
The beating heart of any Ninja is the engine and the ZX-10R and RR are no exception. Both continue to rely on finger follower valve actuation increasing power and efficiency while reducing valve train weight and gear ratios are refined with 1st, 2nd and 3rd lower to make best use of the Ninja’s prodigious power which is further enhanced by a new inlet port design. The 2021 machine has also been engineered to meet Euro 5 regulations, while keeping the lubricating lifeblood cool, a new KRT developed air-cooled oil cooler transfers straight from track to street reinforcing the link between race and road for Ninja fans.
Which leaves the ultimate 998cc Ninja, the ZX-10RR for 2021 (limited to 500 units worldwide). Complete with specially commissioned Marchesini wheels equipped with standard fit Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP tyres. Safely revving 400rpm higher, the RR takes a big step toward the new race and track day season with existing Pankl precision lightweight connecting rods joined by Pankl low friction pistons and Pankl matched piston pins creating pure podium potential.
No wonder a Ninja has won the World Superbike crown six years in a row and no wonder the 2021 Ninja ZX-10R and ZX-10RR wear Kawasaki’s prestigious river mark emblem. Kawasaki has changed the face of superbike racing with the Ninja – with new features and a brand-new look Kawasaki now says #FaceYourself.
The 2021 ZX-10R is available in Lime Green/Ebony/Pearl Blizzard White and Flat Ebony, while the ZX-10RR is available in Lime Green. The ZX-10R is expected in dealers from May, costing £15,799 (with the Performance Edition priced at £16,799). The ZX-10RR is available for race teams by request, costing £24,799, with the Performance Edition priced £25,599