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Motorcycles / 07-13-16

KAWASAKI H2R TEST RIDE


By Miguel C. Bichara

 

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Words by Miguel C. Bichara – Photos by Juanito Vinluan and Randy Silva-Netto

I received a phone call from Kawasaki Wheeltek’s Bobby Orbe to test the most powerful production motorcycle ever produced by Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Japan. This was the 310hp, 1000cc, Supercharged 4-cylinder, non-streetlegal superbike called the H2R. I was speechless and excited at the same time because this is the one bike I wanted to test, as it is the only unit here in the Philippines. This was one of the best phone calls I’ve gotten to test a motorcycle! According to Mr. Orbe, I would be testing the H2R at CIS-Clark International Speedway circuit together with our reigning Phil. National Superbike Champ, Dashi Watanabe. This was no ordinary track test, as only two of us were asked to showcase and test the limits of the most powerful bike on the planet. I was very grateful for this opportunity as I was representing the local motoring media while the other rider is our current Phil. Superbike national champion. This was an excellent way of gathering feedback from two distinct riding backgrounds.

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Roscoe Odulio, the H2R’s owner and Big boss of Kawasaki Wheeltek, was around to witness his precious Japanese Supercharged Superbike create havoc on the CIS tarmac. This was one of the best phonecalls I got to test a motorcycle! Who in this world would turn down such rare opportunity to test the most powerful production bike in the world? No one!

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Even sitting in the paddock area of the Clark International Speedway, the Kawasaki H2R already looks fast. But, thumb that jet fighter style start switch downwards and the supercharged engine roars to life. Blip the throttle and the supercharger whines as the induction pressure sucks the tarmac towards its nose. Its sounds like nothing else on the track and on the road. In fact, it sounds almost similar, if not the same, as the deafening sound of MotoGP bikes. I was briefed by Kawasaki Engineers on the Traction Control, Electronic Quickshift, Engine Brake control, and Rev limit levels that will be set for the first session.

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With fresh Bridgestone slick tires and carbon fiber front fairing as standard, the sensible side of my brain told me to take the track at a steady pace and build up speed on the first lap to scrub in the tires and brake pads. This bike was brand spanking new and I was the very first human to actually test and try the bike. Not even the actual owner himself had ever used the bike. So as I click the bike into gear and take off on my first test session, I resisted the urge to let the H2R off the leash. I was scared of that 310hp motor, as even MotoGP bikes don’t produce that kind of power. In second gear, the instant surge of power was vicious, with the front lifting immediately as the seemingly endless torque and power fired me at the front straight of Clark’s Int’l Speedway. The traction control set by the Kawasaki Wheeltek engineers was set at a conservative level on my first test session, thus the traction control was working overtime as I tapped the quickshifter, found third gear, and felt its brutal aggression. It still surged, by the way, when I shifted to fourth and I wasn’t even using full throttle yet. So during this first lap, I was re-familiarizing myself with the track and trying recalibrate my brain to calculate the braking points for the H2R’s brutal speed between corners. Actually, this was a good exercise, as I had a Superbike race the coming weekend on this same track. So with the last corner approaching right before the main straight of CIS, it was time to experience the full potential of that supercharged 310hp Motor!

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The acceleration is so strong and mind blowing especially in third, fourth and fifth gear. The massive kick of torque feels like you’ve just picked up a 320kph tail wind. I got the bike buried into the turn, clipped the apex, stood it up on the exit and held on to dear life as the rear tire broke traction by mere inches in third, fourth and even fifth! By the second lap, I was seeing an indicated 279kph at the end of the 1km main straight of CIS. This was just the second lap. First and second gear are almost too vicious, and I was glad for the electronic aids this bike was equipped with. The first 10% of the throttle has a real snap to it; after, there is a seemingly relentless surge of torque and power. Some will not agree with the low down aggression in first and second gear; it was just too much, but then again, I want a bit of attitude from a supercharged superbike. And attitude this bike has.

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Incidentally, this was the same type of vicious animal Kawasaki created sometime in the mid-seventies called the 750 H2 two-stroke motorcycle. It had the same attitude in the lower gears and was rather a much-vaunted icon of its time. With the H2R’s aggression in the lower gears, it pushes you to shift to a higher gear always. Instead of using second gear, I used third for the hairpin corners. I was upshifting in some slow corners due to that instant surge of power at low gears. You have to be very smooth on the throttle.

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It will eat any production roadbike for breakfast in the first two gears! Never challenge an H2R rider on a roll-on shootout, unless you’re also on an H2R. I finished the first session tired, just a little scared, and with arm pump from holding too tight. It’s exactly what I wanted to feel on a supercharged non-street legal superbike. With more saddle time, you learn to get on the power more progressively, aware that you can’t just whack the throttle open in second gear without some form of comeback. I did seven laps on my first session and I had one more session to go before our current Phil. Superbike champ, Dashi, took the bike on his first test session, too, being a Kawasaki Sponsored Superbike rider for the 2015 SBK Season. The more you get used to the speed in an enclosed circuit such as CIS, the more you get accustomed to the attitude and engine dynamics of this H2R. You soon realize you can lean and depend on the excellent traction control and let the clever electronics work out the available grip, as you start to dial in all that power with far more control. If not for the electronics, I wouldn’t have been able to push the boundaries of this H2R even in an enclosed Circuit. So on my second and final session, I saw an indicated 287Kph on the front straight, which was my highest indicated speed on the speedometer. I did seven laps on my second session and with this, I had really clicked with the H2R. It is so user friendly; I became used to the power and gave full trust to the electronic rider aids. It still was aggressive, but predictable and consistent. When the supercharger starts spooling, the ride literally becomes mind blowing. This is the fastest production motorcycle in the planet! No normally aspirated souped-up inline-four motorcycle can come close to the way this H2R accelerates!

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I could have hit the magical 300kph mark easy, just by increasing my exit speed onto the front straight, as what our current SBK champ just did, but I was hearing whispers of the H2R owner’s name pass through my brain every single time I exited that fast, last left hander, entering the front straight. It was a simple reminder that this was a test and not a race.

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Many friends and spectators during that test asked me if I thought the H2R could be raced on the racetracks. It surely can, but my gut tells me that a normally aspirated ZX10R may lap just as quickly due to the weight deficit of the H2R. You can stop and change directions faster on the ZX10R because of its lightness. Remember, this is on a tight circuit like CIS or even BRC, but given a more flowing track layout like Sepang in Malaysia or other circuits, and the table may turn. Don’t get me wrong, the H2R handles superbly, it’s just that it is much heavier than Kawasaki’s ZX10R superbike, perhaps all due to the Supercharger plumbing and all the electronics thrown into this bike. It is worth mentioning that the actual wheelbase is longer to add more high-speed stability.

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Speaking of stability, notice the four carbon fiber winglets ala Formula 1, these were designed by the engineering team of Kawasaki Heavy Industries to add more downforce at speeds way over 300kmh. Test riders abroad have seen an indicated 357kph on their speedometer when this bike was launched at the Losail, Circuit in Qatar. Incidentally, KHI is the same company that designed and built Japan’s Bullet Train.

Summing up, the level of finish on this H2R is one of the highest I’ve ever seen on a production bike. From top of the line components like Brembo monobloc brake calipers, Brembo Brake and Clutch masters, full titanium race exhaust, Carbon Fiber front fairing, a proprietary Black Chrome Finish, Tubular Trellis chrome Moly chassis, single sided swingarm and one of the best electronic rider aids available on a superbike.

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Some may not like the aggressive power delivery in the first few gears, but perhaps those riders shouldn’t be considering a Php2.6M, 1000cc, four-cylinder supercharged limited production sportsbike.

I would like to thank Kawasaki Wheeltek honchos, Roscoe and Bobby, for making this one of the most memorable track test of my life.

If you want one of the rarest and most exciting sportbikes ever built, then get behind me in the queue.