At the press launch for the 2012 Kawasaki ZX-14R held at Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s NHRA dragstrip back in December 2011, we watched in amazement as multi-time dragracing champion Rickey Gadson reeled off numerous uncorrected 9.3-second runs on a stock 14R with nothing more than lowering mods and a two-teeth-smaller rear sprocket (which actually makes the gearing taller). We can recall when 10-second quarter-mile times for open-class machinery was considered a major achievement; and when we became the first publication to record a nine-second quarter-mile with the 1998 Kawasaki ZX-9R (June ’98 issue), it became cover-worthy news.
But now it’s looking like we’re knocking on the door of eight seconds in the quarter-mile. Think about that for a second; eight seconds used to be the exclusive domain of custom-built dragracing machines, with extended swingarms, huge engine displacement, and/or forced induction with drag slicks. Try to approach eight seconds with any four-wheeled vehicle and you’re talking six figures before you even reach the start line.
The ZX-14R test bike sitting in our shop suddenly got us to thinking: What would it take for us to get into the 8-second bracket with the big Kawasaki?
Although it would’ve been easier to call in a pro dragracing pilot to deal with the riding chores, we thought we’d try to keep the modifications to a minimum to start, and that includes the rider. Thus, yours truly would be put in the hot seat. While I haven’t participated in any dragracing competition since my latter days at Motorcyclist Magazine, I handle most of the acceleration testing for SR, so while I possess a modicum of skill required to traverse that 1320-foot strip of tarmac, I hopefully would be up to the task. I have turned an 8-second quarter-mile before, riding one of Lee Shierts’ fire-breathing creations back in 2001 (“Baby ‘Busa,” April ’01).
The Brock’s Clutch Mod Kit consists of heavier clutch springs plus all necessary spring hardware, and a spacer that replaces the stock spring washer to disable the slipper clutch for smoother starts. The installation took all of 20 minutes with the right tools.
The Brock’s Performance Radial-Mount...
The Brock’s Performance Radial-Mount Front-End Lowering Kit includes all the parts you need to drop the front end of the ZX-14R to help get better launches. We also raised the fork tubes in the triple clamps to make the job of locking the front end down easier.
The Dynojet Power Commander...
The Dynojet Power Commander V included with the Brock’s kit comes pre-mapped for your particular application. Our unit was mapped for pump gas/dragstrip use, and the engine ran flawlessly.
The Brock’s Flash 2 reflashed...
The Brock’s Flash 2 reflashed ECU from Guhl Motors offers numerous benefits, including a 500-rpm higher rev limit, removal of numerous electronic safety protocols, and holding the secondary throttle plates open earlier for quicker throttle response.
The next step was to procure the right modifications required to get us to our goal of sneaking into the 8s. Coincidentally, one of the attendees at the Kawasaki ZX-14R press launch was Brock Davidson, owner of well-known straight-line speed merchants Brock’s Performance (www.brocksperformance.com). We recalled that the lowering components on the bike Gadson was riding at Las Vegas were from Brock’s, and a quick perusal of the company’s extensive online catalog reveals a plethora of go-fast parts are now available for the maximum Ninja.
The Brock’s Fully Adjustable...
The Brock’s Fully Adjustable Window Links replace the dog bone links in the rear suspension linkage to allow easy lowering of the Kawasaki’s rear end. Installation was a snap with the proper stands, and the instructions were very thorough.
In a smart marketing move to make things easier for consumers, Brock’s compiles groups of related parts together in various packages for both the Suzuki Hayabusa and the Kawasaki ZX-14R that save 10 percent over buying the pieces separately. We opted for the ZX-14R Dragracing Package ($1795 for the kit with polished stainless steel exhaust) which includes the Brock’s Performance Alien Head 2 full stainless steel exhaust, a Dynojet Power Commander V fueling module that is pre-mapped for your particular application (street, race, pump gas, race fuel, etc.), a set of Brock’s fully adjustable rear suspension lowering links and front-end strap-down kit, and a clutch modification kit that uses heavier springs and disables the stock slipper clutch for smoother launches. Brock’s also recommended its Brock Flash 2 reflashed ECU from Guhl Motors ($375), which provides a 500-rpm higher rev limit in addition to other electronic mods, including holding the secondary throttle plates open earlier.
We turned to Kawasaki’s Joey Lombardo (former race mechanic on the factory Honda and Kawasaki AMA teams) to help with the installation of the parts, as he has extensive experience with disassembling the various components on the ZX-14R. This turned out to be a smart move, judging by the trickery required to remove the numerous body panels on the Kawasaki in order to gain access so we could install the exhaust, fueling module, and clutch kit. Where there surely would’ve been cursing and tools flying through the air — as well as cracked bodywork — in our shop, a monk-calm Lombardo deftly disassembled and removed the bodywork in a matter of minutes.
Despite its numerous pieces,...
Despite its numerous pieces, the Brock’s Alien Head 2 stainless steel full exhaust system went together and fit perfectly on the Kawasaki, something that can’t be said of many other aftermarket systems. The Alien Head 2 exhaust not only jettisoned 32 pounds of excess weight, it also boosted power by 10 horsepower on top.
Unlike some aftermarket components that we’ve had the, um, trying experience of installing, all of the Brock’s components went in without a hitch. Particularly impressive was the Alien Head 2 full exhaust system; everything went together and lined up perfectly without any muscling or bending required. Even the clutch kit was a literal 20-minute installation (although having the proper tools such as the special clutch tool and 3/8-inch impact driver to remove the inner clutch hub nut certainly helped). The biggest hiccup we encountered was plugging in part of the Power Commander wiring to a connector that was buried deep underneath the fuel injection.
Some dragracing aficionados are probably wondering why we didn’t get swingarm extensions or a custom extended swingarm for the ZX-14R (extending the bike’s wheelbase makes it more difficult to wheelie, helping launches), or a quick-shifter. Again, we wanted to keep the major modifications to a minimum to start; getting into the eight-second bracket within the stock wheelbase parameters and without shifting aids was one of our goals. This credo also extended to the fuel we used, as instead of race gas that might gain us a tenth of a second or two, we opted to run pump gas this time. Continental (conti-online.com) offered up a set of its Sport Attack 2 tires, the same type that are used in Gadson’s dragracing school, and Vortex (vortexracing.com), 800-440-3559) provided a 40-tooth rear sprocket for the gearing options.
Strapped to Kawasaki’s Dynojet dyno, our ZX-14R pumped out an additional 10 horsepower, with a peak of 203 horsepower at 10,250 rpm.
Our 60-foot times were stuck...
Our 60-foot times were stuck in the 1.60 range, which is OK by magazine editor standards—but just a little bit quicker than molasses in winter by pro racer standards.
With everything loaded up, we headed out to Auto Club Famoso Raceway in McFarland, California, just north of Bakersfield. Things appeared to be going smoothly; too smoothly, in fact. And Murphy’s Law quickly appeared as we rolled in and met up with the Famoso track personnel.
“OK, need your NHRA license number for the paperwork,” asked the Famoso gentleman. Um, I need an NHRA license? Even though we’re renting the track with our own insurance? “Yes, track policy for our insurance. We can’t let you run unless you have a license.” Can I just fill out the application here? “Yes, but you need a doctor to sign the physical exam form.” In other words, I needed to get a physical in order to get signed off…and Famoso Raceway is 20 miles from the nearest city (Bakersfield).
Ah yes, yet another magazine story snafu. As Lombardo and I quickly began searching the internet on our phones, one of the ladies from the front office nonchalantly walked over and handed me a sheet of paper with a name and number scrawled on it. “This doctor will see you today if you head over there right now.” I quickly jumped on the Yamaha FJR1300 that I’d ridden out to the dragstrip and zoomed down to Bakersfield, despite some trepidation on just how legit this doctor was going to be. I need not have worried; the place was a fully staffed and clean medical clinic (and yes, I had to do the hernia cough test…the things we do in the name of a good magazine story…).