The Kawasaki Racing Team debuted a very different version of their 800cc Ninja ZX-RR this morning, much to the surprise of all the other teams currently testing at the Sepang circuit in Malaysia.
While the Ninja ZX-RR on which Kawasaki test rider, Tamaki Serizawa, headed out for his first run of the day may have looked identical to those of his fellow Kawasaki pilots, the high-pitched exhaust note as he accelerated down pit lane was a clear indication to everyone that looks can be deceptive.
By the time the Japanese rider crossed the start finish line at the end of his out lap, the pit wall was lined with people keen to discover for themselves what the strange noise was.As Serizawa flashed past on the run towards turn one, the exhaust note alone was enough to let the observers know that Kawasaki's engineers in Japan had spent at least part of the winter break developing a screamer version of their Ninja ZX-RR motor.
But while John Hopkins and Anthony West were interested enough to halt their own test programs to get a look at the screamer-powered bike, it is unlikely, according to Kawasaki's technical manager, Naoya Kaneko, that the two Kawasaki race pilots will get to test the even firing order engine in the near future.
"We're still in the very early stages with the screamer motor, and it's going to take some time for the test team riders to get this engine to a point where we can hand it over to John and Anthony to test," explains Kaneko.
Kawasaki's decision to build a screamer engine for evaluation was made after taking a number of important factors into consideration.
"An even firing order offers a number of advantages over a big-bang version of the same engine," says Kaneko. "Peak power is better, and the even firing order means that the engine is not stressed as hard at high revs. Of course, there are disadvantages as well, with the main one being that driveability is more difficult to control when you don't give the rear tyre time to recover between power pulses."
"But in the past year we've seen a reduction in capacity from 990cc to 800cc, which has also meant a reduction in outright power. We've also seen improvements in tyre technology, and taming the power delivery has become easier through the use of more refined electronic systems on the bike. These factors mean that it is now feasible to extract the advantages from a screamer engine, such as the increased power, while overcoming the disadvantages through tyres and electronics."
"That's the theory anyway, and Kawasaki's engineers are convinced that it is worth testing this theory by actually bringing a screamer engine to the track for evaluation," concluded Kaneko.
With the first shakedown tests completed successfully during the morning session by Serizawa, the evaluation of the screamer bike will continue this afternoon, but this time in the hands of former 250cc World Champion, and Kawasaki's European test and development rider, Olivier Jacque.