Fluid of Life. Yes, as important as the blood to human body.
There are a few things which are more important as the oil and the tyres on a motorcycle. However, they are terribly understated and ignored sometimes leading to damages to both the machine and the rider. One case in point was the death of Paul Walker, which is touted to have happened because of his age-old tyres on his performance car. There are innumerable instances when a bad quality engine oil, or less engine oil has caused expensive machines to seize and the owners left stranded and much lighter on the wallet.
One of the machines of our choice on the #powerTrip360 is the Ninja H2, which comes with a slew of technological features that together make it the phenomenal machine that it is – the world’s first 300 PS production motorcycle (its R version) and a super-charged one at that. And it is even more relevant to talk about the role of the engine oil to keep this beautiful motor running over 20,000 kms in varied environments – from 2 degrees to 40 plus day after day!
The beauty of the design lies in its compactness and the use of existing and proven technologies by Kawasaki. Kawasaki went flat out, pun intended having made full use of its research and development prowess spread over aviation, heavy engineering and even marine technology. The Kawasaki River Logo is the proof of that.
The head design, piston shape, the exhaust and inlet port design, the supercharger and the transmission system all together make for a power packed package that is meant not just to produce scintillating performance but also to work as reliably as any production motorcycle.
The engine has been built primarily as an in-line 4 cylinder unit producing some 200 PS in its normal state of tune, which is the road version of the bike – the H2. The Supercharged H2R (meant for track use only) has a supercharger boosting power to 300 PS. To support this massive power increase the engine has some changes done to the head and valving. However essentially the engine remains the same. And that’s what we took advantage of. A few relatively easy modifications to the bike (without voiding the warranty) saw the power go up from 210 BHP to 280 BHP. These include ECU reprogramming, Akrapovic slip-on and a performance air filter. The last one helped accentuate the flutter of the supercharger as well, which is one of the key selling points of the bike for aurally inclined connoisseurs.
The supercharger drive comes from a planetary gear system unique to this motorcycle. Super-chargers need to spin very fast to produce enough boost pressure and that’s exactly what the planetary gear drive does. It multiplies the crank rpm by 9.2 times and so when the engine is spinning close to its 14,000 rpm red-line, the super-charger rotor is spinning at almost 130,000 rpm! At such rotation speeds the spinning shaft floats on a thin film of oil and is not in physical contact with any bearing surface.
The super-charger is effectively a compressor and so has an impeller which spins and compresses air which is sent to the engine intake. Spinning at phenomenal rpm’s as mentioned above the impeller must be in perfect balance or it will vibrate itself to destruction. The H2’s 69mm diameter impeller is CNC machined from a forged aluminium block, has 6 blades at the periphery that increase to 12 as we move to the centre. It pumps over 200 litres of air per minute at peak rpm and builds boost pressure up to 2.4 times atmospheric pressure (which is almost 36 psi boost).
In order to accommodate the higher air pressure from the supercharger as well as ensure a high reliability with the over 300 PS output of the closed-course Ninja H2R, the whole engine was designed to be able to handle stresses 1.5x to 2x greater than on a naturally aspirated litre-class engine. In fact, aside from its camshafts, head gaskets and clutch, the engine unit is exactly the same as the unit on the Ninja H2R.
Among the notable engine design differences between the H2 super-charged engine and a typical IC engine, the H2 engine deliberately dispenses away with squish area within the combustion chamber, considered vital for efficient combustion through fuel-air mixing in conventional engines. Avoiding engine knock is way more important than anything in an engine running on high boost pressure and at high rpm’s. The H2 engine runs on a low 8.5:1 compression ratio (surprising, eh!) leaving it enough leeway to make full use of the high boost pressure generated by the super-charger. For the same reason the piston crowns are flat.
The air intake system has a 6 litre capacity intake chamber made of aluminium and has a high flow filter. The metal box helps contribute to structural strength and also quickly cool the intake air which has been heated due to compression by the super-charger. The intake ports are smooth-surface finished and the exhaust ports are straight, ejecting exhaust gases straight into the exhaust system. The exhaust valves are made of heat resistant steel and Inconel, which is an extremely heat resistant alloy. The exhaust system is a 4-2-1 type, hydro-formed for the best shape and dimensions for optimized gas flow.
Engines live on heat and can also die if there’s too much of it. Engine oil is one big element that greatly contributes towards thermal balance of the engine. The engine and transmission oils both not just reduce friction but also prevent too much heat generation and also help transfer heat from internal hot zones to the atmosphere. In the H2, the designers have built a single lubrication system in the interest of compactness. It provides cooling oil for the engine components, supercharger and transmission. Oil jets lubricate the supercharger chain at the contact points where the chain meets the upper and lower gears. In addition, the supercharger drive train’s lower gear has an oil passage. Inside the engine, there are two oil jets per cylinder to ensure the hot pistons are effectively cooled. Transmission oil jets (first use in a Kawasaki motorcycle) enable a compact transmission with durability. Oil quality is a vital aspect that directly affects both performance and reliability of this amazing machine.
In fact we are quite sure that hardly (or even no one!) has done so many miles on a demanding machine like the Ninja H2 as of now anywhere in the world, especially like this. From doing almost 300 on a racetrack (in Darwin, Hidden Valley, part of the trip) to doing 1700 kms in 15 hours on a road environment in hot and sultry conditions, the bike and the Castrol POWER1 oil have worked in terrific harmony. We will write about the Pirelli Diablo Rosso 3 tyres in a separate post!