Test: Jeff Ware Photography: Studiozac
Taking part in WSBK and WSS commentary for a number of years working for Speed TV and Fox Sports Australia alongside Kevin Magee meant I’d been paying very close attention to the machinery, so I had to jump at the chance to ride Broc Parkes ZX-6R!
At the time, I was also the Aussie press officer for Broc Parkes, Bryan Staring and Andrew Pitt, so I always had my finger on the pulse… One bike that had been a serious threat to the Ten Kate Honda’s of Kenan Sofuoglu and Michele Piro, and the Parkalgar Honda of Eugene Laverty, was the Provec Motocard Kawasaki ZX-6R. It also happened to be the best looking bike in the field in my opinion – and frequently the fastest through the speed trap…
With Joan Lascorz out after a horrific crash and Aussie Broc Parkes signed up for the balance of the season (and then for 2011 and 2012), the team’s championship aspirations were dashed, however, despite big shoes to fill, Broc, a former runner-up in the WSS Championship, managed to resurrect his career and was on the top step of the podium throughout the next few seasons.
Unfortunately, at my first test the rain came in 2010 and flooded the Magny Course, France, track and all teams, bar the Provec Motocard Kawasaki team, packed up and went home. I had shared the trip with Aussie ex racer Alex Gobert (publisher of motoonline.com) and we had hired a large motorhome for the occasion. We flew to Paris and drove to Magny Cours, where we met up with Bryan Staring and we set up camp in the pits for the WorldSBK weekend, looking forward to riding all the bike on the Monday… We had a fun weekend though it was a long and expensive trip for a wet test on the ZX-6R but still an experience to tick off…
2010 Wet Test, Magny Cours, France
After a bit of a laugh with the team at my expense, “You big experimental rider. Need big springs,” I climbed aboard and headed off down pit lane. The bike was set to street shift, which is unusual for a racer, but suited me fine in the pouring rain. The footpegs were obviously set up for Broc, a half-sized human, but aside from that I felt right at home on the bike as I slipped and slithered my way around the super slick French Grand Prix circuit.
Throttle response was surprisingly very smooth and controllable – even off the ultra-slow first gear 180-degree hairpins and there is loads of power available up top with surprisingly good drive from the mid-range too.
Upshifting is taken care of by a quickshifter and backshifting is easy with good control from the slipper clutch. The suspension felt soft for me obviously but to be honest it was impossible to tell what it was really like in the soaking conditions. Also, unfortunately the GPS steering damper was wound up very stiff so this made life hard in the rain.
Braking on the bike was impressive. The lightweight package and race pads combined with the standard Nissin calipers but radial-pull master-cylinder made for impressive feel in the slimy braking areas and the bike was super stable on the anchors.
All up it was a truly exciting ride but sadly, as wet as you can get. Still, they race them in the wet, so I was still stoked to experience a factory World Championship Supersport bike… Luckily, a year later I got to see the bikes full potential on a dry track.
2011 Dry Test, Portimao, Portugal
In his 11th full time season of WSBK, with 82 World Supersport races under his belt as well as 87 World Superbike races, Aussie Broc Parkes was one of the veterens in the WSBK at only 30 years-old. Broc had enjoyed 14 pole positions in the 600 class, 29 podiums and six wins – plus 14 fastest laps. But in almost identical year to his amazing 2008 season, bad luck meant Broc had machine and injury problems plagueing him and he finished fourth in the title despite leading it at one stage…
After that very wet and slippery test of the bike in 2010 at Magny Course I was left with but a teaser of what this bike would be like in good conditions. Thankfully, the weather Gods were on my side at Portimao in Portugal and with a clear track, 30ºC sunshine and a fresh set of hoops I found myself motoring up the pit lane on the pit lane speed limiter on Broc’s bike – with Broc looking on and laughing at me monstering the tiny ZX-6R…
I’d already spent the morning riding Chaz Davies’ YZF-R6 and Fabian Foret’s Ten Kate CBR600 when I hopped on Broc’s machine. They were two completely different machines and I could immediately feel that the MotoCard Kawasaki ZX-6R was yet another individual machine. They are all so close on the track and the stopwatch but reach the lap time in different ways.
Rolling out onto the circuit and the end of the front chute I short shift to fourth gear. I am immediately surprised at the amount of mid-range torque available. Really impressive after the very peaky nature of the title winning ParkinGO R6 and the slightly less torque Ten Kate CBR600. I’m also really comfortable on Broc’s bike and like on the R6 of Chaz Davies, I fit the bike well – despite Broc being small.
After a few corners to scrub the tyres and familiarise myself with the bike I put my head down for my testing laps. Winding the throttle on hard, the bike accelerates out of the hole with ferocity. That mid-range acceleration is a real surprise and the bike pulls very hard. There is loads of drive and grip and I can’t feel the TCS at all to be honest.
As the bike reaches the upper rpm range though the power definitely drops off quite dramatically and it is time to grab another gear and use that upper mid-range/lower top-end acceleration. I’m shocked by this as Broc always has high top speeds and no trouble on the chute but the top end of the bike cannot even compare with the ParkinGO R6 or the Ten Kate CBR. I later discuss this with Broc and he tells me that despite their input, this is the engine character they are supplied by Japan with their engines, which all arrive assembled from the factory.
Shifting through the gearbox with the MoTeC controlled quickshifter is pin sharp and back shifting into turns reveals good clutch slip and run into turns. The brakes are sensational, they feel quite a bit stronger than the ParkinGO R6 and marginally stronger than the Ten Kate CBR. Stability on the brakes is a real strong point of the bike, it’s much more stable and controllable on the anchors than the others. Amazing feel too from the Nissin callipers and Showa factory forks.
The bike sits quite level and is so well balanced. Even with my 85kg frame (at least 20kg more than Parkes) the bike remains balanced and at my slow pace feels just so fantastic. Initial turn-in is not as radical as the R6 or as fast and the bike just does a nice linear moment from upright to full lean angle. There is incredible grip from the WSS Pirelli’s and the Showa suspension is amazing.
The bike is so neutral, as cliché as that sounds, and I felt I could carry more corner speed on it than the others I rode – without doubt it was the best handling of the Supersport machines I rode, it just didn’t have the motor of the Ten Kate Honda or the ParkinGO R6.
2010/2011 Provec Motocard WSS Kawasaki ZX-6R Specifications
Power: Over 145hp
Wet weight: 163kg
Fuel Capacity: 17L
Engine: Liquid cooled Inline four-cylinder DOHC four-stroke, four-valves per cylinder, KRT race kit camshafts
Bore and stroke: 67mm x 42.5mm
Compression ratio: Raised compression
Fuel Delivery: 4 x 38mm Keihin throttle-bodies
Exhaust: Leo Vince exhaust system
Gearbox: Six-speed cassette-style gearbox
Clutch: STM slipper clutch
Frame type:2010 Kawasaki ZX-6R, Valter Moto rearsets, Speed Fibre carbon-fibre fairings, GPR steering damper, TWM levers, Stomp tank grip
Front suspension: Showa factory World Supersport big piston forks (BPF)
Rear suspension: Showa factory World Supersport rear shock
Front brake: Dual 300mm floating rotors with Nissin four-piston radial-mount calipers
Front wheel: 17 x 3.50
Rear wheel: 17 x 5.50
Front and rear tyre: Pirelli WSS control tyres
Instruments: Full MoTeC engine management and traction control with full data logging with MoTeC dash