Ultimate Ninja Experience: Brands Hatch GP

Visordown mounts the 2019 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R for the first time at the famous Brands Hatch GP racing circuit.

THE sun is beaming as I ping down to Brands Hatch brimming with excitement all the excitement of a kid at Christmas. The reason? There’s a ZX-6R with my name and number on it and four sessions on track with Chris ‘Stalker’ Walker. After road-testing the bonkers ZX-10RR a couple of weeks back, I’m looking forward to trying out its (supposedly) tamer little brother at one of the most famous and challenging circuits in the UK, and with the best track tuition money can buy. 

About Ultimate Ninja Experience

Kawaski is offering customers the experience of riding the new Ultimate Ninja Experience: Brands Hatch GP at circuits across the UK, backed up by expert tuition from Leon Haslam, Chris Walker and Glenn Irwin. 

Whether you are a complete newbie to track riding, or veteran track day junkie; the Ultimate Ninja Experience will teach you a few tricks to help you slash your lap times, and most of all it’s a hoot.  

There’s still a couple of sessions available if you’re keen to properly try out the new Ninja for yourself across three tutored track sessions:

Tuesday 20th August – Donington Park [Chris Walker] 

Thursday 12th September – Croft [Chris Walker]

My Ninja Experience

Kawasaki invited me to Brands Hatch GP to ride the impressive Ninja ZX-6R for the first time. After getting all the boring but important track safety briefings out of the way, I met my Ninja and expert instructor, in my case, it was ex BSB and WSBK star Chris ‘Stalker’ Walker.  

After a chat about the circuit and the Ninja (during which I had to try and contain my excitement), we then spoke about the essentials I needed to know before heading out. The instruction between sessions is discussed openly and in layman's terms, which helped calm the nerves before heading out on such a challenging and undulating circuit and on such a capable track weapon.

Track time

Without any drawn-out classroom sessions and over theoretical conversations I was pretty much straight out on the track. For three laps I followed Chris as he set a steady pace and simultaneously assessed my riding from his mirrors. He must have eyes like a chameleon, it’s crazy how he can set the pace and still keep tabs on his students. Then, once he’d seen enough he let me take the lead, which helps him form a more complete picture of what kind of areas I struggled in.

As I’ve ridden Brands Indy circuit before it was the GP section from the back straight onto the pit ‘straight’ where I wasn’t confident. Chris didn’t seem to think this was a problem though as upon returning to the pits a full debrief was on the cards to sort any issues. Chris then talked to me about ways I could improve and develop, all of which are fully achievable. The personal tuition is what makes this whole experience so worthwhile and a must for anyone who wants to get faster on track.

The other thing that spoke to me during the course of the day was the little Ninja. Despite never riding one before I felt right at home and trusted the machine from the word go, even on the OE Bridgestone S22 road tyres, the bike didn’t kick up a fuss or get snatchy when I pinned the throttle at maximum lean. Full review to come soon, but for now, all I can say is wow... an absolute cracker of a motorcycle and ‘Stalker’ said the exact same! 

After singing the bike’s praises, it was back onto the tarmac with the same format as the last session but this time Chris picked up the pace to the point where he knew I would be comfortable. And by God, it was so much fun! Following someone with his level of experience is so useful, especially if you’re like me and have a monkey see monkey attitude to learning. Plus, as he was on the exact same spec ZX-6R, it gave me the confidence to push and keep him in my sights, knowing that the bike could handle the speed, lean angle, and acceleration

The second track session was where it all started to click, but I struggled to commit to Hawthorn Bend at the end of the back straight and Sheen Curve. The main problem I had was fear. These bends are fast and you're mostly tipping the bike in blind. Chris, sensing my hesitation, flew passed me at the end of the back straight to show me the kinds of speeds that are possible through each bend, and the correct lines to take. It was great to be challenged like that, pushed beyond the comfort bubble of a quick road rider, but all in the safe hands of a proper professional racer. 

Session over. And after narrowly avoiding a rogue squirrel as I flew down clearways, I felt pretty good. The pace was nice but we know I could do better around Druids and the debrief revealed that I was in too low a gear, making the bike stiff and more knife-edge as it screamed near the redline. Simply staying one gear higher for the next session allowed me to pick up the pace even more and work the bike less. Throughout the day, the less I pushed the Ninja the faster and smoother it became, which is the sign of a well set up bike straight out of the box.

Tips from the experience

Correct gearing is everything: Downshifting fast and hard may be cool and sound awesome, especially as the Ninja was fitted with an Akrapovic end can, but in reality, it makes the bike more rigid and less balanced. Believe it or not, Chris advised me to take all of the turns in third or fourth gear. Who’d have thought it on a 636cc right? 

Smoothness on and off brakes: It’s tempting to brake hard and release fast as the adrenaline from the track day gets your heart pumping. But the smooth release of the brakes just before the apex is vital to get the front-end loaded and turned in more effectively. With the help of Kawasaki’s Intelligent braking system, the fear of trail braking isn’t scary anymore. 

The correct line before speed: Find the correct line and stick to it. Rome wasn’t built in a day and the speed will come once you work on the basics, and the Ninja Experience is great for testing out and learning which lines work and which ones don’t.

Summary

The Kawasaki Ninja Experience is Truly an epic day, I cannot recommend attending the Ultimate Ninja Experience more highly. From new rider to expert you’re guaranteed to learn something and improve your track day riding, which will also benefit your road riding to boot. What’s more, you get to test out the incredible Ninja ZX-6R in conditions where it truly comes alive. And if you like the Green Machine and want to buy one, you’ll receive a voucher for the same price as the trackday off your new bike. That means the whole experience was FREE!! 

Find out more about Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R. 

Available Ultimate Ninja Experience sessions:

Tuesday 20th August – Donington Park [Chris Walker] 

Thursday 12th September – Croft [Chris Walker]

I cannot recommend attending the Ultimate Ninja Experience more highly. From new rider to expert you’re guaranteed to learn something and improve your track day riding, which will also benefit your road riding to boot.

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