Writing about bikes for 20 years. Published in dozens of titles on five continents. Mildly obsessed with discovering how things work.
The current crop of WSBK regulations have been tailored in such a way that so-called ‘homologation specials’ are effectively becoming the only way to see success and evidence is mounting that next year Kawasaki will be revamping its limited-run ZX-10RR to regain the dominance it enjoyed in the four-year run from 2015-2018.
Under the current rules, manufacturers only need to show that they intend to make 500 examples of a bike over a two-year period, and to offer that bike for less than the €40,000 price cap. Those regulations have already pushed bike firms down the ‘homologation special’ route – resulting in models like the Yamaha R1M, Suzuki GSX-R1000R, Honda Fireblade SP2 and, of course, the Kawasaki ZX-10RR. But so far this year all those machines are being soundly trumped by Ducati’s Panigale V4 R, which is unarguably the most extreme interpretation of the regulations seen so far – differing from its mass-made sibling not only in details like suspension spec but also in engine capacity, bore and stroke.
Kawasaki has already hinted that it might be tempted to follow suit, with senior engineer Ichiro Yoda telling German publication Speedweek in April “We have to become more competitive and think about a MotoGP-like bike. An extreme bike that we produce in limited numbers in series. For Kawasaki it is easy to build 500 such motorcycles.”
Now further fuel is added to the speculation that a new ZX-10RR is coming in 2020 thanks to the publication of new emissions certificates in California. The documents show that the normal ZX-10R is set to remain unaltered next year, but where the equivalent 2019 paperwork also listed the ZX-10RR, it doesn’t appear on the 2020 emissions certificate. That suggests there are changes coming to the ZX-10RR that will result in different emissions levels in 2020, requiring new certification separate to that of the ZX-10R.
How much will the bike change? That remains to be seen, but the combination of the Ducati Panigale V4 R and Alvaro Bautista has proved so dominant in the early stages of the 2019 WSB championship – with a clean sweep of 11 wins across the first four rounds of the series before Jonathan Rea could get the upper hand at Imola – means that we can expect every other manufacturer to take increasingly drastic measures to regain competitiveness next year.