Tested: Kawasaki’s Ultimate Ninja Experience review

BikeSocial
By Michael Mann
MannOnABike BikeSocial's Web Editor. Been riding bikes since 1984 and writing about them since 2013. Commuted in Central London for 10 years, fast and smooth road rider, does a reasonable job in a track day quick group. 6 ft and 14 st.

 

Date reviewed: June 2019 | Tested by: Michael Mann | Price: £319 | Website: NoLimitsTrackDays.com

 

Kawasaki UK has devised a novel way to entice would-be customers to have a blast on their 2019 ZX-6R; let them loose on the circuit with the reigning British Superbike Champion which seems like the stuff of some people’s dreams, and all for £319.

With Glenn Irwin recently departing the Team Green garage in the BSB paddock, the teaching duties on the various Kawasaki ‘Ultimate Ninja Experience’ outings, remain with World Superbike star, Leon Haslam, and BSB race winner, Chris ‘Stalker’ Walker.

Those outings coincide with the three morning sessions of a No Limits track days held this year at Oulton Park, Donington Park, Knockhill and Croft, and while most of those dates and availability have passed for 2019, the opportunity to be taught by some star riders on track on a brand new bike (that isn’t yours) will certainly be tempting once the dates for 2020 are released.

I was invited to Donington Park which was also the host venue for the annual World of Kawasaki event. Arriving at the designated garage and the sense of being made to feel special was immediate; green Kawasaki flags were flying either side of our double pit lane garage with the five sparkly clean bikes lined up perfectly symmetrically on their own fully branded carpets, each with a ‘race number’ and an accompanying branded vest over our own chairs – these are the neat touches that make £319 justifiable.

Here’s how it went:

 

Kawasaki Ultimate Ninja Experience with Leon Haslam | Track Tutorial at Donington Park

For UK customers to try before they buy, what better way than to have Donington Park at their disposal with 2018 Bennetts British Superbike Champion, Leon Haslam, as the expert guide.

 

What you’ll learn

Ahead of the first session my fellow pupils and I were asked about our track experience so Mr Haslam could judge which track day group to take us out in. Once suited, booted and bibbed, Leon lead us out of the garage, along pit lane and out onto the beautiful Donington Park Grand Prix circuit for the first of our three track sessions in among the other No Limits track dayers.

Haslam either leads or follows for the 20-minutes, splitting the track time with the other pupils. He then offers direct feedback about the on-track performance as well as a more general overview about a specific subject such as body position when back in the garage. There’s plenty to take in and wrap my head around before the next session but immediate feedback coupled with a short wait until getting to practice again is an ideal solution to becoming a better rider.

The 2019 Kawasaki ZX-6R is one of the most ideal bikes for Donington with its smooth, long corners and quick changes of direction. The ZX-6R craves revs and with a peak power figure of 128bhp @ 13,500rpm and a fast-spinning in-line four below, you’ll soon get used to carrying plenty of corner speed and feeding more gears into this dynamite little super sports machine than you’d expect. I’ve ridden S1000RRs and Panigale V4s around Donington yet the Kawasaki is very well suited and provides just enough to keep you on your toes without being overwhelmed with +200bhp.

 

Above: wipe your feet before getting on/off; Haslam leads the way; Mann tries to keep up

 

Who’s it aimed at?

The Ultimate Ninja Experience is advertised at those in the ‘lower group’ of a track day which begs the question, why doesn’t Kawasaki offer something for the more experienced guys and gals with the ZX-10R? Maybe that’s coming soon.

Nevertheless, and while I’m not a fan of the word ‘ultimate’, this opportunity is a cracking few hours in the presence of a BSB champion and multiple World Superbike race winner who’ll provide some expert tuition… and if you go on to buy a ZX-6R, Kawasaki will knock £319 off the price. And they provide biscuits. What’s not to like?

I feel as though the more experienced track day goer won’t get as much out of the experience as a novice, where there’s an abundance of tips to help bike position on the track, body position on the bike and how your movement affects the balance, for example. It’s easy to trust a thoroughbred like Leon Haslam too, he’s probably lapped Donington Park more times than everyone reading this put together, and the way he explains certain undulations of the circuit along with brake markers and apexes is second to none. Except his father, ‘Rocket’ Ron, perhaps.

 

 

What I got out of it

With only three track sessions and two other pupils in my category, I knew there’d not be too many opportunities to get Leon’s attention firmly on my riding, especially on such a popular circuit. The track was busy and the first two laps of the first session were the standard, single-file, warm-up procession meaning that by the time we got going we had plenty of traffic to negotiate and Leon could only dedicate a couple of laps to each of us. The pressure was on to perform to a suitable level so he could offer suitable judgment and help.

After three sessions and the resulting feedback, I was more confident about stringing a flowing lap together by planning ahead – where I turned in at Redgate (turn one) would affect my line and speed through Hollywood, Craner Curves, Old Hairpin and up through the two left-handers at Starkeys Bridge and Schwantz Curve.

Haslam said, “If you attack Donington Park, you’ll lose time. It’s all linked, especially the first half of the circuit so being patient and waiting for the exit of the corner and therefore you’re pointing the bike in the right place allows you to give it 100% throttle, making full use of the bikes power.”

With advice on the right line through Craner and the Old Hairpin, it makes me want to get back on track, any track, to piece it together just like the Donington jigsaw that Haslam showed me.

 

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