Kawasaki doesn’t race in MotoGP, but if they wanted to, they could it right now. They can count on a Champion the level of Jonathan Rea and technically they wouldn’t need any Pindaric flight to start racing, as they have their amazing Ninja, a bike that has been leading the WSBK Championship for the last three seasons. On certain kinds of reduced-speed tracks, with a few straights and large turns, the couple Rea-ZX-10R could give some GP riders a hard time.
COMPETITION AT A SAFE DISTANCE – In Assen, for example, SBK’s times have been really close to MotoGP’s ones. In 2017 Jonathan Rea kicked off from the pole position with an excellent 1’33″505, a time that only Maverick Vinales (Yamaha) with a 1’33″378, and Andrea Iannone (Suzuki) with a 1’33″499, managed to overcome during this Friday’s FP. All the other riders made slower times, and here we are talking about important names such as Marc Marquez, Jorge Lorenzo, and Andrea Dovizioso (you can find all Friday’s times here). During the all-or-nothing SBK’s lap, bikes used super-soft Pirelli tires, as they did during the race. Jonathan Rea was always the quickest, with a best registered time of 1’34″860. We are taking 2017 as a reference because this year Kawasaki has around 30 horsepower less due to the new regulations that limit horsepower to 14.100 against the 15.200 of the past.
HANDICAP – Kawasaki is the only Japanese firm that doesn’t race in MotoGP, but if they decided to do so they would have a number of technical advantages compared to SBK’s limiting regulations. In the meanwhile, they would have to make their bikes much lighter: Rea races in SBK with a 168 kg’s bike but MotoGP’s can’t weight more than 157 kg. However, in MotoGP Kawasaki could build carbon breaks, while they are forbidden in SBK, and wouldn’t have any limitation as for engine revving, which is limited to 7 for the whole SBK season. In addition, the green bike would also enjoy total freedom in testing, something the top MotoGP teams can’t do because official testing is subject to quota in both categories.
ELECTRONICS – The next question comes naturally: with this long list of advantages, how fast could Jonathan Rea go if he was riding a Ninja with MotoGP settings? Only engineers can give the true answer, for bike enthusiasts there is only the dream. But we should always remember the trick: in MotoGP, electronics is capped, the control unit is the same for all bikes and the foundation software too. On the contrary, each SBK bike can build its own control unit (all top teams use the Marelli LME though) and they can have their own software. And that is Kawasaki’s ace in the hole: as they enjoy total freedom in these fields, Cannibale and his team of engineers can do miracles, such as taking a base-production to meet MotoGP performances. The fact that SBK bikes can race with no limitations when MotoGP prototypes can’t, is totally absurd. But that’s what the regulations say…