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The Maggiora MXGP track near Milan in Italy played host at the beginning of August to the launch of the 2016 Kawasaki KX450F.
Range leader of the company’s off-road competition offering for the new season, the MX1 class machine has undergone a fundamental make-over for 2016 benefitting from a reduction in chassis width, more power and numerous other engineering, chassis and styling updates.
Joining invited journalists from across Europe for the launch were the Kawasaki Racing Team in the form of their race truck and awning plus, more importantly, riders Ryan Villopoto and Tyla Rattray.
Making his first appearance in Europe since his recent retirement, Villopoto attended the Lommel round of the MXGP Championship and flew direct to Italy for the unveiling along with Rattray and Team Manager, François Lemariey.
As event organiser for KME, May Doets observed, the facilities were perfect for the launch of such an important product.
“Maggiora is only licensed to be used just a handful of times a year so we were delighted to have secured it as a launch venue for the KX450F. The track is demanding, scenic and dramatic, a perfect setting against which to highlight our new MX1 machine.”
Operating out of the KRT awning, a combined team of KME and KRT engineers prepared a fleet of machines for the media to test while offering support across the day to make individual adjustments to suit riding preferences.
With Kawasaki’s project leader for the KX450F, Akira Takasu, in attendance along with Hidetaka Kamiya of Showa ready to explain the latest SFF Air-TAC front fork. The information resource available at the event was considerable as Technical Service Manager for KME, Michael Resch, explains.
“This new bike has so many tuning and personalisation options we made sure that there was all-day trackside support so that riders could test the full range of the bike’s capabilities. The new KX EFi setting tool allowed journalists to take advantage of seven pre-set engine maps or create one of their own while the simple “plug and play” wiring loom connecters to adjust between soft, standard and hard track scenarios were also popular. With Showa technicians on hand to custom tune the front and rear suspension –as well as explaining the new Showa mobile phone app – the set up was just like practice for an MXGP event”.
In terms of MXGP, the involvement of the KRT riders adding an extra level of insight to proceedings and a welcome addition to the lunchtime presentation was highly appreciated with both riders taking an active part in proceedings.
In terms of changes, the increased power and weight reduction were what struck the multiple Supercross champion Ryan Villopoto most.
“3.4kg is a huge weight reduction”, said Ryan. “Perhaps the only thing the current bike could be singled out for was its weight; now with such a major weight saving programme, the new KX is right on the money.
Equally, the news that it is has an increase of over two horsepower on the current bike is really welcome. It’s what every rider wants, less weight, more power, an ideal upgrade to an already mighty impressive ride.”
For Tyla – who managed a solid days riding on the 2016 machine at Maggiora – the feedback was equally enthusiastic.
“At first around Maggiora, the settings were not quite right for me but that soon changed as I gradually dialled in an engine map using the new KX Fi setting tool and the guys from Showa made changes to suit my riding style. You can certainly tell it is lighter and, out of the turns, there is some real extra urge.
Perhaps the most impressive thing though was the reduction in the chassis width. It feels really narrow now and so easy to position the bike and move around on it. Over the course of a moto I think this new found agility is going to really count in the coming season.”