Kawasaki’s Ninja 250 Gives Aspiring Racers a Head Start

Little Green Stepping Stones

By Ari Henning, Photography by BeeGee Images

From grassroots “cheapionships” to a new World Superbike support class, Kawasaki Ninja 250s have infiltrated every echelon of motorcycle racing. The same qualities that make the diminutive sportbike a popular choice for commuters—affordability, efficiency and fun—make the Ninja a great selection for racers on a budget.

Nearly every roadracing club in America has a 250cc production class, but no region has embraced the Ninja like the Pacific Northwest, where starts see bikes gridded six rows deep. The Oregon Motorcycle Road Racing Association, Oregon Raceway Park, the Washington Motorcycle Road Racing Association and the Westwood Motorcycle Racing Club in British Columbia all have their own “Cheapskate Cups.” OMRRA is scheduled to run no fewer than 16 races this year, and the three American clubs have banded together to create a six-race Northwest Ninja 250 Cup.

Although the little Ninja is easy on tires and sips gas, racing any bike can spiral out of control and consume your savings. Affordability is the name of the game, thus most organizations prohibit costly engine and chassis modifications. In the case of the Northwest clubs, riders are encouraged to be as stingy as possible. Some riders are reportedly using baking sheets as belly pans!

While the Ninjas being run in the European Junior Cup are clothed in professionally painted bodywork, the concept of turn-key racing is the same. The Junior Cup is World Superbike’s response to MotoGP’s Red Bull Rookies Cup, but instead of riding KTM 125s, the 14 to 17-year-olds pilot identically prepared Ninja 250Rs. A new support class for 2011, the Junior Cup race will take place immediately before the second race on World Superbike weekends.

The Junior Cup (www.europeanjuniorcup.com) is the brainchild of Gerry Bryce, who created the series “to allow younger riders a stepping stone into international racing, where they can learn the techniques of racing and also develop the disciplines and skills required for a career as a professional racer.”

Unlike the “cheapskate” club races, the Junior Cup isn’t cheap. Entry in the six-round series costs $25,000, which includes use of a race-prepped bike, gas, spec Pirelli tires, pit equipment, hospitality in the paddock village and coaching from professional riders.

The first race at Assen in the Netherlands saw German Tom Busch take the win followed by New Zealander Danial Mettam and American Brandon Kyee. The series champion will have a choice between a €10,000 (approximately $13,000) cash award or €15,000 ($19,500) in funding to contest the 2012 European Superstock 600cc Championship.

Interested in racing a Ninja 250? Get in touch with your local club to see about classes and contingencies. If you don’t have a bike, there are rental companies scattered across the country. California-based Feel Like A Pro (www.feellikeapro.com) and Rent My Ninja (www.rentmyninja.com) of Louisiana offer race-prepped 250Rs at extremely affordable rates. Rentals include tires, gas, setup help—and a guaranteed good time.

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