It’s not every day you get a call from Canadian Kawasaki’s technical training guy asking if you want to see inside the new H2R motor. The track-only supercharged 310 PS engine, announced last year, is at least 50 per cent more powerful than any other one litre motorcycle engine in production. Here was a perfect opportunity to see what makes it tick.
Tech guru Gary Comer was in Moncton recently as part of Kawasaki’s mobile mechanic training program and knowing CMG is just down the road, he invited me to come and take a look. So I cleared my afternoon schedule and hoofed it up to the tech college where Gary was holding court in front of a dozen Maritime technicians.
This year, Kawasaki’s training course involved a close look inside the H2R engine, its transmission cases locked into a stand and the guts spread out on a table in order of removal. Many years ago, I used to be a motorcycle mechanic, but I’ve never seen inside an engine as powerful as the H2R. I was a fat kid in a candy store and today the store owner (Gary) was at my disposal to go over all the treats before me.
The large red supercharger grabs my attention first, something that Kawasaki claim enabled them to build a one litre inline four engine that also offered a massive spread of torque. The supercharger itself was built in-house, which gave Kawasaki the advantage of tuning it to the engine’s specifics. It’s a centrifugal type and uses a step up gear as well as planetary gears to gear it up 9.2 times that of crank speed meaning that if the engine is topped out at 14,000 rpm, the impeller is spinning at an incredible 130,000 rpm.
The impeller itself is machined from a forged aluminum block and has six blades at its tip, doubling to 12 at the base and can pass up to 200 litres of air per second, pressurizing it up to 2.4 times atmospheric pressure. To cope with this, the engine is designed to handle up to twice the amount of stresses than that of a normally aspirated engine, with the airbox made from aluminum to cope with the extra air pressure.
I take a look at the cylinder head: each combustion chamber and port is machined instead of letting the casting suffice to ensure the business end of the motor is as close to design spec as possible. It reminds me of a race-prepped bike that’s had its ports smoothed by a Dremel.
It’s quite the treat for a gearhead to see this state-of-the-art motor in all its naked glory and I quiz Gary on some of its secrets. I’m intrigued about the differences between the 310 PS track-only motor and the slightly more civilized 200 PS road-going version.
“Cams (tuned for lower torque on the road going H2), head gasket, ECU, freer-flowing ram air/exhaust and an extra clutch plate” he says, all matter-of-fact. “But it’s mainly on the cams and ECU.”
I’m gobsmacked that’s all it takes to add 50 per cent more power to a motor. I hold up the cams and ask what’s to stop someone from making their H2 into an H2R by buying and adding these parts?
“Well, it’s not that easy”, says Gary. “To buy these parts, you need proof of ownership of that model – you can’t buy a set of H2R cams if you have an H2. They’ve also changed the plug on the ECU to further discourage this trickery.”
I contemplate sliding the cams down my pants while he’s distracted by a question from one of the technicians, but then I realize they may notice their absence when it came to putting the top end back together. Plus the fact that my bulging pants may seem a little out of place.
With the technician’s question answered, Gary returns to show me the H2R’s cassette gearbox (allowing a technician to pull the whole gearbox out without even removing the motor from the bike), mounted in a vice for all to play with.
Unlike most transmissions, this set up uses dog rings that slide left or right to engage the gear next to it to the shaft, as opposed to moving the actual gears. This reduces the weight of the moving parts and so makes for a smoother, quicker shifting experience. And being a cassette type, it’s held together in a single unit, making it easy to see how the gears change (cue video).
Unlike most importers, Canadian Kawasaki actually takes its technical training to the technicians. A course is generally a week – snow days allowing. In order to ensure its technicians are up to date on the latest tech and machinery, Kawasaki requires them to attend one of these courses at least every two years for the hands-on element, and once a year to be briefed on the latest updates.
The Mobile Mechanic Training Program is Kawasaki’s way of ensuring its dealers’ technicians all get access to motors like the H2R. In the motorcycle and car business, most dealerships send their technicians for training to Head Office (usually in Toronto), requiring them to cover travel, food and accommodation expenses in the process.
However, according to Gary, this doesn’t always get the turnout they would like, so Kawasaki decided to take the training to the dealers. A cargo box was filled with tools, engines and chassis parts, and then shipped across the country, stopping in Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto, Montreal, Quebec and Moncton.
Once the cargo box full of goodies arrives, Kawasaki Technical staff fly out to meet it at a local tech college – usually one with which Kawasaki already works. They also get to donate extra equipment to the college that would otherwise end up in the crusher.
Even though the dealer still has to pay to send a technician to these courses, it’s a single fee per dealership, with no flights and often no hotels either. It’s not such a fun junket for the technicians perhaps, but it means a dealer can afford to send several people on the week-long course instead of just one or two.
The first day familiarizes the technicians with Kawasaki’s new models, then it’s off to the workshop for four days of hands-on stripping and reassembling of motors, transmissions and shocks.
I like that Canadian Kawasaki takes the initiative to bring its school to the technicians. Canada is a big country and dealerships need all the help they can get. Besides, modern technology is getting trickier every year: if more mechanics can understand how it all comes together with Kawasaki’s equipment, then they’re more likely to get it right with a customer’s motorcycle.
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