This news slipped under our radar last month, but when the Kawasaki Ninja 400‘s European debuted at EICMA, the World Superbike Championship announced the new model will be eligible to race in the series’ relatively new World Supersport 300 class.
The new 399cc Ninja still needs to be homologated and the rulebooks need to be updated to specify any minimum weight or maximum rpm limits, but these are mere formalities in the wake of WSBK’s announcement. Left unsaid, however, is the irony of the WSS300 class no longer having any bikes displacing below 300cc.
The Kawasaki Ninja 300 was the holdout with its 296cc Twin, competing against the 321cc Yamaha YZF-R3 and 471cc Honda CBR500R. When initially conceived, the series was supposed to include the KTM RC390, but the Austrian company’s 373cc sportbike was never homologated and was removed from the rulebook in August. Should the Ninja 400 replace the 300, the smallest engine in the class will belong to the R3 (although technically, the Ninja 300 may remain eligible as it was previously homologated).
Yamaha rider Marc Garcia captured the inaugural WSS300 championship, winning three of nine races and appearing on the podium three other times. Fellow R3 rider Alfonso Coppola (pictured below) finished just a point behind (but would have won had his race victory at Donington Park not been wiped out because of a technical violation).
Though the Ninja 300 had the smallest displacement, it was still competitive with the top Kawasaki rider, Scott Deroue, finishing third overall with four podiums including wins in the first two rounds. Another Ninja 300 rider, Ana Carrasco, made history by becoming the first woman to win a world championship motorcycle race.
There were relatively few Hondas on the grid, but the top CBR500R rider, Mika Perez, was also competitive, finishing fourth overall with three podiums including two wins (one of them came as a result of Coppola’s Donington Park DQ).
In total, that was four wins for the Yamaha R3, three wins for the Kawasaki Ninja 300 and two wins for the Honda CBR500R.
With bikes ranging from 296cc to 471cc, the series needs to set some parameters to maintain competitive balance. The series started off with one set of minimum weight and maximum rpm limits, and later revised the rev limits two-thirds of the way through the season after the German round at EuroSpeedway Lausitz. As of this writing, the WSS300 rulebook lists the following minimum weight and maximum rpm limits for each homologated bike (we’ve included the original rev limit and as well as updated limits introduced after the Aug. 20 round in Germany):
|Model||Engine||Minimum Weight||Initial Max RPM||Revised Max RPM|
|Honda CBR500R||471cc Twin||150 kg||10500 rpm||9500 rpm|
|Kawasaki Ninja 300||296cc Twin||150 kg||13000 rpm||13000 rpm|
|Yamaha YZF-R3||321cc Twin||150 kg||13000 rpm||12850 rpm|
|KTM RC390||373cc Single||136 kg||10500 rpm||N/A|
Kawasaki claims the Ninja 400’s curb weight is 10 kg (22 pounds) lighter than the Ninja 300 while producing 9.4 more peak horsepower, so we expect the rulebook will be updated to seek a competitive balance.
Of course, we are left with a couple of question marks for the 2018 racing season. A name change may be in order for the WSS300 class, given the size of the competitors. KTM may yet be homologated to race next season; a couple of RC390s did compete in the finale at Jerez and they were competitive, but their results were not classified as the bike was not eligible.
Meanwhile, in the U.S., MotoAmerica is set to debut a similar class in 2018 called the Junior Cup. At the moment, the class allows the CBR500R, RC390, YZF-R3 and the Ninja 300, with Suzuki‘s GSX250R awaiting homologation. The Junior Cup was announced before the Ninja 400 was released, but it will likely get added once the international WSS300 series updates its rules.