Driving report Yanagawa-Kawasaki

Driving report Yanagawa-Kawasaki

Kawasaurus Rex

The ZX-7RR is now considered a veteran in the superbike scene. And yet the bright green racer is always good for a surprise.

It often has advantages to rely on what has been tried and tested. The various teams in the Superbike World Cup also like to rely on the tried and tested: Ducati on the skills of King Fogarty, Yamaha on the potential of the high-tech R7, Suzuki on the million dollar budget of main sponsor Corona.

And Kawasaki? Rely on the technology of the last few years and ?? the carburetor.
Star driver Akira Yanagawa proves again and again that this is not the worst way. But team boss Harald Eckl sees things rather soberly despite a victory in the last round of the 1999 Superbike World Championship in Sugo, Japan. Even the professional optimist considers winning the World Cup 2000 with the current material to be rather unlikely.
But he will have to rely on the ZX-7RR also in the coming season. Akira’s work equipment is constantly being developed, but sensational quantum leaps due to the given basis are not to be expected. Nevertheless, what is available to the brave Yanagawa and his Spanish team-mate Gregorio Lavilla is anything but yesterday. MOTORRAD was able to see this for itself on the GP circuit in Valencia.
Riding a superbike can be a mighty exhausting affair at times. Especially on a track as narrow and winding as Valencia. To savor the brute thrust of the superbike, there is hardly any space or time. The approximately 170 hp four-cylinder engine is robust, but not uncouth. Similar to the series counterpart, it gasps grimly for air and accentuates the impressive forward thrust with angry intake noise, which starts at speeds around 8000 rpm. From this point on, it’s pointless to complain about poor performance, as you’ve got your hands full fighting the up-and-coming front wheel. As soon as one or two gears are even rudimentarily fully accelerated, the next corner is already lurking. It’s actually a shame, since the speed repertoire of the unit equipped with standard steel valves extends up to 15,200 rpm.
What the heck, there is no time for long regrets. Use two fingers to use the dreamlike, radially screwed Brembo pliers, to knock down two gears at the same time and simply bend them. Sounds mean? but it is not. Because in addition to the perfectly adjustable stoppers, a special clutch from the production of suspension specialist and ex-Grand Prix driver Eskil Suter ensures that such actions run smoothly. This slip clutch can be continuously adjusted using a sophisticated spring mechanism. The braking torque of the motor is transmitted to the rear wheel to a greater or lesser extent depending on the driver’s preference. “Akira uses this braking effect to control the spectacular sliding of the rear when turning,” explains team boss Eckl. We prefer not to do that and marvel at the neutral driving behavior. In the face of such abuse, any production motorcycle would simply hobble straight ahead.
However, the Kawasaki doesn’t fall into the corner all by itself. Rather, it requires a clear steering impulse. Especially in the faster chicane just before the home stretch, a casual shift in weight is no longer enough. This is where the factory racer makes itself felt with all its mass. 162 kilograms ready to drive without fuel are not the problem. Rather, it is the external dimensions that inhibit the greens. The expansive aluminum bridge frame, the voluminous 24-liter tank and the wide bench are a hindrance when changing lean angles quickly.
One last bend, drive through first gear, and finally it is there, the home straight. The engine screeches in the highest tones. As if he had never done anything else, thanks to the Tellert automatic gearshift, the left foot pushes through the six gears at lightning speed. Almost from a standing start, the ZX-7RR catapults to 260 km / h in less than 15 seconds – respect. And just as brutally, the rocket decelerates again at the end of the straight. Again it takes some strength to then circling through the quick left bend as if pulled on a string. The Kawa has no problems with stability, that’s for sure.
The works team doesn’t seem to be aware of any major problems anyway. Since using the new Suter clutch, the drivers have made great starts, and the power output of the eight available works engines is enough to keep up with the works Honda. In order to adapt to different routes, you can cope just as easily with minor changes in the steering head angle and position of the swing arm bearings as with the use of different carburetor batteries. Big 41ers are used on fast courses, and 39er Keihins are used on tight ones like here in Valencia. And Gregorio Lavilla is apparently finally getting used to the peculiarities of the ZX-7RR and burning one record lap after another in the Spanish asphalt.
ZHowever, nobody in the Eckl team finds it willing to lean back. Around 25 test days and 14 racing weekends are on the program for the team every year (around 10,000 liters of racing fuel run through the carburettors), and the engines have to be overhauled every 1,500 kilometers. “If everything goes well, the vice world champion title is possible next year,” says Eckl. But even if the tried and tested sometimes has advantages, he would probably be just as happy about a new, more powerful basic motorcycle. But that is not yet in sight.

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