In honor of the 30th anniversary of the Ninja, Kawasaki kicked off the World Supberbike weekend at Mazda Raceway by unveiling a 2015 model year 30th Anniversary Limited Edition Kawasaki Ninja ZX–14R in addition to the 2015 30th anniversary liveried ZX–10R and ZX–6R. For the Kawasaki faithful, the manufacturer put together a celebration of all things Ninja in theMarketplace of Mazda Raceway yesterday evening.
While Laguna Seca is a great location – as is any world-class track – for a gathering of the Kawasaki Ninja tribe, many people may have wondered why there instead of, say, Daytona Bike Week where the pool of Kawasaki owners would likely be even larger? The history of the Ninja line is intimately tied to the dry lake and its internationally famous race track. In 1983, Kawasaki launched the 1984 Kawasaki Ninja 900R at Laguna Seca by inviting members of the press from over 30 countries to come sample both the motorcycle and the track. To say the Ninja 900 made a splash is an understatement, as it was, according to Kawasaki, named the World’s Fastest Production Motorcycle and claimed many magazines’ Bike of the Year honors. So, now the venue choice makes tons of sense. The fact that Tom Sykes on his Factory Kawasaki ZX–10R had over 40 points in his pocket entering the weekend and had just secured the pole position by half a second was just icing on the cake.
Dubbed Kawasaki Ninja Nights, the event’s centerpiece was a bike show consisting of three categories: Best Race Replica Ninja,Best Custom Ninja, and Best Vintage Kawasaki. Naturally, the two Ninja categories were well populated with impressive entries – given the event’s name and location. For a first time event, the turnout was excellent. As soon as the on track activities closed down, the crowd and the Kawasaki racers began to gather.
With the DJ spinning tunes and El Jefe Tequila acting as a social lubricant, Ninja Nights turned into quite a shindig. While the bikes were where most of the conversations took place, with folks discussing the details of the various machinery, Kawasaki racers – both past and present – were on hand to sign autographs and talk with the fans. Perennial favorite, Eric Bostrom; 2014 Pike’s Peak winner, Jeremy Toye; and racing legend/AMA Hall of Fame Member, Jimmy Felice, were the most well-known racers. However, younger riders Sahar Zvik, Danielle Diaz, Sebastiao Ferreira, and Garrett Willis were also signing autographs. Team Green support riders Kevin Pinkstaff and Brian Pinkstaff were on hand, displaying their ZX–10Rs.
As the sun set and the temperatures dropped, the attention shifted from the racers to the results of the fan voting. With 25 bikes to choose from, the competition was pretty stiff. The winner in the Best Custom Ninja category was a sweet Ninja 250 must be seen to be appreciated. The Best Race Replica Ninja was a lovingly crafted Doug Chandler replica – which only seems appropriate since Chandler’s home town, Salinas, is just down the road from Laguna Seca.
The Best Vintage Kawasaki class was sponsored by Motorcycle.com, and David Benoy proud owner of a 1974 Kawasaki H2 garnered the most votes from attendees and Facebook fans. Although he’s owned the H2 for “about 20 years,” Benoy just recently got the bike back on the road after a six year hiatus. He said it’s now a regular rider. When questioned about the restoration work he’s done on the bike, Benoy said that he kept it “basically stock” and that the restoration was mostly getting it back in streetable condition. After cleaning the carbs and installing a new battery, he did make the extra effort to have the bike repainted and given new factory-replica stickers. As with any vintage restoration project, Benoy said that finding replacement parts was his biggest challenge. While Benoy may have never entered this bike in a show before, his debut show may be difficult to top.
Kawasaki’s first Ninja Nights was a success. While there is no official count as to the number of attendees, at any given time, more than 100 people could be seen milling around the 25 Kawasakis. Hopefully, Kawasaki will make this an annual event, and as the word spreads, it will grow into an integral part of Mazda Raceway’s World Superbike Weekend.