Our Ninja 650 felt immediately...
Our Ninja 650 felt immediately comfortable, and required little in the way of suspension adjustment throughout the weekend. Our only major change, for instance, was a spring change in the front end.
CVMA officials must have paid the weather bill for Sunday, as the clouds that threatened on Saturday were gone and all but replaced by beams of sunlight. A good night of sleep had done Bradley some good as well, as he rolled out in his first practice session and clicked off a 1:56.1 in just his third lap on track. For comparison, this lap was .3 seconds faster than his best qualifying lap, and .8 seconds faster than his best lap in Saturday afternoon’s race. Amazingly, the accelerated pace didn’t bring to light any faults in the Ninja’s armor, as Bradley returned to the pits still bragging about the bike’s stability and aptitude at speed. The only weakness, according to our associate editor, was a bit of chatter with the front end under load, something Tige attributes to our project bike’s street-minded triple clamps and fork tube design. “I think the thing is just flexing a bit when you get into the corner, and we can’t fix that unless we put a different front end on it,” confirmed Danne.
Bradley looked to transform the early-morning success into a better result in race one, which he managed to do by nailing the start and keeping his head down all the way into turn 1. The ensuing pack of bikes filed in behind our little Ninja, but only one bike (the same TZ250 that’d beaten Bradley on Saturday) was able to get by in the coming laps. The gap between Bradley and the TZ, ridden by an experienced Vince Rolleri, fluctuated in the early stages of the race, but began to narrow once Bradley found his rhythm. Bradley managed to close the gap even further with just two laps to go, but Rolleri simultaneously realized he had a race on his hands and was able to push toward a win. Bradley did manage, however, to run a 1:54.9 in the early stages of the race, which was the fastest we’d gone up to this point and evidence that the Ninja was coming along supremely.
Bradley and Tige Danne of CycleMall stand proudly behind the Kawasaki Ninja 650 project bike. The duo walked away with four trophies (a second-place trophy and three third-place trophies) after running five races.
Our continually dropping lap times and visions of first-place trophies convinced us to spoon a fresh set of Bridgestone tires on the Ninja for our second and third races. Both sprints didn’t pan out as Bradley would’ve hoped however, as he got stuck behind a faster SV650 and was unable to make a pass that would stick. The third-place finishes that ensued weren’t for a lack of effort; Bradley made a few hair-raising passes in Chuckwalla’s sweeping turn four, but was simply unable to hold the methanol-fueled SV off on the following straights. Bradley ran yet another 1:54.9 lap, which was enough to keep a smile on the crew’s faces, but slightly off Bradley’s Sunday-morning goal of dipping into the 53s.
The Ninja 650 was outnumbered...
The Ninja 650 was outnumbered by multiple Suzuki SV650s, but held its own up front. The parts that we used to transform the bike, including the Yoyodyne slipper clutch, Sato Racing rearsets and Driven sprockets, all worked flawlessly throughout the weekend.
Meeting our non-existent expectations
We admittedly entered our first weekend aboard the Ninja 650 project bike with few expectations, but those that we did have were all but shattered. We really can’t say enough for how well the bike worked throughout the course of the weekend, and how little effort it required to make the Kawasaki competitive in a class that’s admittedly dominated by Suzuki SV models. Credit goes to Tige Danne and the crew at CycleMall of course, who used their vast amounts of knowledge to help make the Ninja a frontrunner.
We had a great time racing with CVMA as well, and found the organization’s two-day race schedule to be extremely beneficial for those who’d rather spend their time racing than burning up rubber during excessively long practice sessions. The organization is relatively new and continually developing, but looks to offer a good avenue for up-and-coming racers; we were beaten, for instance, by a fresh-faced Andrew Zabzdyr, who’s been racing SVs for a few seasons now and is planning on making the move to 600s next year.
What’s next for our project bike? Well, we’ve had so much fun with the bike thus far that we’re going to do our best to keep the development process rolling along. The bike started off as a fun way to go racing and develop our racecraft, but don’t be surprised if you see a superbike-spec Ninja 650 gracing these pages in an upcoming issue!