The Ninja ZX-10RR has been through many stages of development, first as the Ninja ZX-10R and for some time now in the RR version. Extensively updated ahead of the 2021 season, and featuring a new homologation at start of the 2023 campaign, the latest Ninja ZX-10RR has seen another raft of significant changes for 2024, mainly due to the unique WorldSBK balancing rules and concession systems.
There are several technical rule changes for all manufacturers to adapt to in 2024, but specifically for the Ninja ZX-10RR the bike will now be able to utilise the 500 extra RPM that it qualified for in 2023, but could not use without some further changes to the valvetrain. Now qualifying for these upgrades in 2024 the latest WorldSBK bike will not only have a higher rpm limit than 2023, it will also be able to run a lighter crankshaft mass, reducing overall engine inertia.
The Ninja ZX-10RR engine features a finger follower valve actuation system (also used on Kawasaki’s top motocross bikes) with a DLC (Diamond-Like Carbon) on the followers reducing friction and enhancing durability. Added to that, “ride-by-wire” style 47mm throttle bodies are coupled to lightweight pistons with their attendant reduction in reciprocating mass.
Other regulation changes in 2024 include the introduction of a combined bike and rider weight balancing rule, a reduced fuel tank maximum of 21 litres, and the removal of maximum rpm limits as a performance balancing concept between manufacturers. Checkpoints for concession points will now be done after every two rounds of the championship, not every three as in previous seasons. There are also subtle changes to the Superconcession rules for 2024, streamlining the system compared to the previous protocols.
As well as the engine modifications for 2024, the chassis has been reinforced and together with technical partner Showa there have been numerous upgrades to the suspension package this season. On the electronics side, work is being done on many aspects of the package to improve tyre consumption and to match in with the latest engine specification.
In historical terms, the original ancestor to the latest RR model, the ZX-10R, reached a new career zenith in 2013 when Tom Sykes and the Kawasaki Racing Team won the WorldSBK championship. During that year the Ninja ZX-10R was the bike to have in WorldSBK, achieving ten victories over fourteen hard fought rounds of racing.
Come the 2014 season and the litre class Ninja placed Tom Sykes second in the WorldSBK Riders’ championship, delivering eight race wins for the gritty Yorkshireman. In the Superstock 1000 FIM Cup the Ninja came close to winning the title also.
Rea’s championship win in 2015, in his debut year as a Ninja ZX-10R rider delivered total domination and with the two official KRT machines inside the top three finishing places, the bike proved versatile in the extreme. In fact Rea won on his first outing on the machine at the Phillip Island season opener, a sign of what was to come.
The 1-2 result in 2016 for Rea and Sykes on the all-new Ninja enhanced the reputation of the ZX-10R, while podium success also followed the path of the new bike into the Superstock 1000 FIM Cup class. Cut to 2017 and Rea delivered a stunning third championship in a row, cementing his relationship with the mighty Ninja and securing his place among the Superbike elite.
Subsequent championship wins in 2018 and 2019 for Rea re-confirmed his and this machine’s legendary status. Even early season threats in the form of a serious new challenge from Alvaro Bautista could not deflect Rea or his Ninja ZX-10RR from their winning championship trajectory. 17 race wins for Rea and two more from eventual independent riders’ champion Toprak Razgatlioglu served to double underline that once more Kawasaki’s Ninja ZX-10RR was the bike to beat.
In 2020 the KRT Ninja ZX-10RR riders, Rea and new signing Alex Lowes, each scored a race win in the opening WorldSBK round in Australia. Global pandemic concerns led to a long interruption thereafter, and finally a shortened season. The intense European-based restart saw Rea maximise the bike’s potential to win his sixth successive title and get to within one win of the magic total of 100 career race victories.
Rea used the revamped bike to great effect in 2021, scoring as many race wins as the eventual champion Toprak Razgatlioglu and only missing out on a seventh championship crown by 13 points. Rea became the first rider to breach the barrier of 100 WorldSBK race wins that year.
In 2022 Rea was again top Kawasaki rider, finishing third and he would repeat this result last season on a new homologation of Ninja ZX-10RR.
Alex Lowes has proven to be a winner and podium finisher with Kawasaki and this year will team up with a new fellow KRT rider, Axel Bassani - an exciting talent from Italy with podium scores and Independent Riders’ championship success to his name already.
With a new technical landscape opening up in front of them both official Kawasaki Racing Team riders, plus Tito Rabat on a satellite Kawasaki Puccetti Racing Ninja ZX-10RR (supplied directly from KRT for the first time), are looking forward to the latest era of WorldSBK racing with refreshed ambitions and expectations.
The Ninja ZX-10RR you will see competing at the highest level in 2024 shares most of its DNA with the machines now on display in Kawasaki dealerships, underlining the production-derived ethos of the entire WorldSBK paddock.