By Dan Moakes
March 11 2007
Kawasaki is best known as a Superbike entrant in recent years, but with 85 Grand Prix victories, over half of them in the 250cc class, it should come as no surprise that the marque won nine World Championship riders’ titles between 1969 and 1982. Their two 500cc race wins date back to the early 1970s.
More recently, the 1993 World Superbike and 2000 Japanese Superbike titles went to Kawasaki with, respectively, Scott Russell and Hitoyasu Izutsu, and other domestic SBK titles have gone their way in the same period - along with the World Supersport series in 2001, and the most recent European title. The green machines joined the new MotoGP championship during 2002, with a four cylinder bike that had already made its race début in Japanese competition.
The new four-stroke GP Kawasaki is the Ninja ZX-RR, with Shin’ya Nakano now joined by class rookie Randy de Puniet. Alex Hofmann, Olivier Jacque, Akira Yanagawa, Andrew Pitt and Garry McCoy are the previous riders, with reserve man Jacque taking the machine’s best result of second in a wet Chinese race. There remains no current works entry for World Superbikes - where the 750cc four-cylinder ZX-7RR was last campaigned in 2002 by Chris Walker, Izutsu, and wildcards Eric Bostrom and Yanagawa - but the new bike will again be campaigned by PSG-1 riders Walker, Régis Laconi and Fonsi Nieto, as well as Team Bertocchi.
From 2004, the 1000cc ZX-10R has appeared in Superbike racing, albeit in the hands of privateers. Kawasaki Bertocchi led the way in WSB, with the PSG-1 machines joining last year. Meanwhile, Hawk Kawasaki’s machines have been ridden to excellent effect by the likes of Scott Smart and Glen Richards in the British series - the first named a three-time winner in the bike’s début year. Richards had already reached the podium four times in 2003, frequently getting the ex-Walker 750 bike in among the 1000s. Dean Thomas assumes team leadership in 2006, joined by Craig Coxhell and Peter Hickman.
Kawasaki’s success tally