The project is not the latest, it is from 2016, but we would like to show it to you. Two wheels, two cylinders, a maximum of 1200 cubic centimeters. These were the specifications for the two Essenza sprints that took place at Glemseck 101 (September 2 to 4, 2016) and at INTERMOT (October 4 to 9, 2016). Kawasaki Germany took part of course. There was only one catch: There was actually no suitable basic motorcycle in the current model range. Or is it? The idea sounded unusual, but that's exactly what the green brand has stood for for decades. Kawasaki rises to the challenge with the Vulcan S: 649 cm3, 61 hp, total weight 228 kg ready to drive. Not exactly ideal genetic conditions for the two 1/8 mile sprints.
Custom racer Kawasaki Underdog!
Andi Seiler, press spokesman for Kawasaki Germany, still saw opportunities at the time: “Of course we want to annoy the big guys with our racer a little bit. After all, the Vulcan S is inherently `long and low`, which keeps the front wheel on the ground when accelerating and helps to bring the power to the road. And one thing is certain - we will provide enough power. “There were good reasons for this confidence. Because the parallel twin has already proven that it offers really good tuning conditions. This is where Dieter Briese comes in. The engine guru from Motorrad-Höly in Schriesheim can already look back on several successful tuning projects with this engine. The most recent example at the time: the ER-6 Radicale, a beautiful naked race bike with more than 100 hp from a displacement of 649 cubic centimeters. Dieter Briese pulls out all the stops for extensive doping in the new project as well: completely new intake system, head overhaul, new connecting rods and new crankshaft, no alternator.
"These measures and the fine-tuning already bring about 100 hp. And the last kick is provided by a nitrous oxide injection, which briefly adds another 80% more power“, Dieter Briese explained his battle plan. So maybe displacement should be replaced after all? But Kawasaki doesn't just rely on extensive engine tuning. The chassis should also be prepared for the seemingly overwhelming competition. For this, Kawasaki had brought another seasoned professional from the tuning scene on board. Kawasaki dealer and CEO of Warm-Up in Aalen, Tommy Holzner, had already caused a worldwide sensation with many extraordinary custom bikes.
"For me it is important that the bike not only looks good, but also delivers the performance on the road. We already have a lot of good ideas for this and work with the latest technology“, Said Tommy Holzner confidently at the time. Where previously clay was used for modeling, 3D technology has now found its way into the world. The original proportions of the motorcycle are first transferred to a CAD program using a special hand scanner. Then the silhouette is modeled on the computer, and finally a 3D printer simply plots out many special parts. For other components, Tommy Holzner relies on practical experience and technical know-how. For example, an Öhlins upside-down fork with special fork bridges and a swing arm from a Z1000 will be used. Of course, Tommy Holzner had prescribed a strict diet for the chassis. The racer was trained to get to the start without a gram too much, everyone involved in the project was sure of that.
Accordingly, Martin Driehaus, Marketing Manager at Kawasaki Germany, was confident: "Of course we know that other brands have better starting conditions. That's why our bike is modestly called 'The Underdog'. And we feel very comfortable in the role of the challenger."
And how did it go in 2016?
The success story of the Kawasaki underdog at the ESSENZA competition continued at INTERMOT 2016. Although pilot Francesca Gasperi was unable to repeat the excellent second place in the Glemseck race, the public and expert prizes for the custom conversion made up for the team's hard work. The Kawasaki team, consisting of driver Francesca Gasperi, Tommy Holzner (Warm up, Aalen), Dieter Briese (Höly, Schriesheim) and Kawasaki press spokesman Andi Seiler, also had good chances of a podium place in Cologne. After all, this time the underdog had nitrous oxide support on board, which was not yet available at Glemseck. But it turned out differently.
First of all, the racing mode at the Cologne exhibition center had to be changed for safety reasons. The duel race over the 1/8 mile turned into a pure sprint in Cologne. Everyone drove the marked route twice. The addition of the two times resulted in the ranking. Actually perfect for the underdog, who brought an optimal power-to-weight ratio to the wheels with the laughing gas plus. The training run went absolutely smoothly. But shortly before the start of the first race, the moment of shock: due to a misfire, the injection bridge was blown off the intake manifold with a loud bang. The end? Not for the underdog team.
With combined forces, the tank and seat bench were dismantled on the event site, the loose component was fastened again and rolled back to the start just in time. However, the incident brought Francesca out of her rhythm and disturbed her concentration. Understandable, because she now automatically listened to the engine with every switching operation and at the same time had to direct the nitrous oxide supply with pinpoint accuracy by hand switch. The result was two less than perfect runs and only eleventh place in the end.
The mood in the team was accordingly. Racing was merciless here too. The evening went to the final event and award ceremony in Hall 10 with mixed feelings. In addition to the races, the audience and a jury of experts were asked to rate the ESSENZA bikes. And both votes showed that the underdog is a winning bike. In the public voting, the motorcycle came in 2nd place, and the jury of experts placed the Vulcan-S conversion in 3rd place in the top-class field of participants.
A terrific result for Tommy Holzner, who secured many votes from the audience with his exciting Cafe Racer design. And for Dieter Briese, who earned the respect of the expert jury through his technical know-how. Together with the second place that Francesca was able to achieve at Glemseck 101, the Underdog project became a real success story for everyone involved and fans. Nevertheless, the aim remains to do even better next time.
Kawasaki press spokesman Andi Seiler concluded: "Numerous experts wished us the best of luck when they found out about our project. And that was certainly meant seriously, but without believing that we would be more successful. But we have proven what ability and team spirit make possible. Thanks to everyone involved and the many, many Kawasaki fans who supported us at Glemseck, in Cologne and online."
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Tuning custom racer Kawasaki Underdog!
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