Joey Savatgy’s Factory Monster Energy Kawasaki KX450 will touch Anaheim soil for the very first time on Saturday night. The rookie showed a ton of potential in October at the Monster Energy Cup in Las Vegas. Since then, Joey has been putting in a lot of work to be as prepared as possible for the 2019 season along teammate Eli Tomac. Mechanic Justin Shantie (@j_shan_) walked us through Joey’s race machine prior to the gate dropping.
Up front you will see the Renthal 999 handlebars that Joey runs. This is the flattest available bar Renthal offers. Justin explained to us that a lot of set up positioning including the handlebars (located in the rearward position on the X trig triple clamps) crossed over from Joey’s set up on the KX250F while racing with Pro Circuit. Eli and Joey run different grips, bars, and levers. Joey has a cross bar while Eli does not.
If there is any single category that makes this factory bike race ready, it is the preventive measures taken front to back to increase durability and protection against debris. Both master cylinders (oem part) are protected by these carbon guards to block roost or rocks during racing. In the clutch a Maxima Dot 4 racing fluid is used. The same fluid is used in the brakes. Maxima coolant is also used on the motorcycle.
A pretty trick and adjustable shim spacer in the bar mount allows Joey’s handlebars to be able to go up or down in position if preferred. The steering stem nut is made by a vendor in house for Kawasaki. The washer is incorporated into the nut instead of separate. The center nut is a production piece that is anodized to go with the color scheme of the bike.
Factory Showa suspension is paired with X Trig triple clamps on Joey’s bike. Eli Tomac runs a KYB set up on his KX450. Kawasaki actually has solid relationships with both Showa and KYB so they prefer to work with both and have options for their riders to use. Joey and Eli also run different offsets on their X Trig clamps. All the suspension is dynoed before being mounted up to the bikes.
There are ports for data acquisition on Joey’s front forks to collect data on anything related to the suspension while riding. One is actually a bleeder and the other is a port to pull data from. In frame are the OEM brake lines supplied on the same KX450 that comes off the showroom floor at your local dealer.
At the bottom you will find a Kawasaki SR (special ride or special racer) caliper and brake hangar. On the bike stand the front brake actually feels quite spongy. When it gets down to racing Joey’s front brake is very progressive and this is his preferred set up while on track. The rotor is also a a SR Kawasaki component but the diameter is the same size as OEM. This is another piece of the bike where Joey and Eli differ some. Both run an SR caliper but Joey runs a magnesium while Eli runs an aluminum. The piston sizes will differ as well.
All the carbon you see on Joey’s bike is done through a vendor in house including the protective pieces on the handlebars, skid plate, chain guide, and disc guard.
A new color way for the Kawasaki SR hubs, Almost a throw back to 2012 . The color was placed here to compliment other pieces on the bike and ties in the D’Cor graphics scheme.
The axle is titanium and is another Kawasaki SR part. The lugs come from Showa. They do play with offsets but Justin explained that was a classified piece of information.
The radiators are a production piece that are modified in house by Kawasaki in their machine shop. An aluminum support is added to it so they are protected against bending easily from a rider squeezing the bike or collision. The radiator cap is actually off a KX65 and it is a high bar. It helps with boil over and the spring is stiffer to keep the cap on. It is drilled by Justin and wired by Justin. There is a pin that keeps from the top spinning off it hit by debris or another motorcycle.
The meat and potatoes. The engine is done in house at Kawasaki in Southern California. There is a base setting that is established each year for the riders to try out before making changes. Both Joey and Eli have not strayed too far away from the original base setting that was presented to them in the off season.
Data acquisition is no secret to the factory teams at this point in racing. Every team uses some kind of version to gather and collect key information on their motorcycles during racing, practice or a combination of the two. The bracket was specially made for the port to rest on by Kawasaki. Data like ambient air, water temperature, oil temperature, RPMs, and more recorded and pulled off by USB to review. This helps the team and Joey go over things that may need to be addressed or can be fine tuned during racing. It also keeps the rider safe and out of harms way due to malfunction on the motorcycle.
Along with more data collection pieces you notice the engine hangars. A small hole was drilled into the front motor mounts for rigidity purposes but beyond that these are production engine hangars that are available on the Kawasaki KX450. Many of the teams will change material and/or shapes to get a different feel from the flex characteristics. You can see one of the engine mounts with hole in the center below.
The ignition cover is an in house part from Kawasaki. All billet aluminum along with the starter cover. Mainly for impact resistance. Justin explained that they wanted to make their bikes as bulletproof as possible for racing.
Justin explained that the pegs may very well be one of the coolest things on this bike. He has seen them made in house and CNCed. The fabricator takes the raw material and creates this masterpiece for Justin to mount onto Joey’s Kawasaki. The foot peg pins are SR parts and the covers are titanium that keep mud from packing in the foot peg area. Even on the bottom of the peg there is coverage to keep the mud from packing in and hanging on. The swing arm pivot is titanium with a titanium nut from Kawasaki.
Shifter is a production piece polished up and a small piece at the front of it keeps from mud packing in while racing. Similar to what the KTMs and Husqvarnas have on their motorcycles.
A production seat with D’cor gripper cover is added to the bike. Joey loves a fresh seat. If Justin can put a new seat on each week he will. He tries to keep as fresh as seat as possible on the race bike and transfer the more worn in seat to the practice bike. The subframe is stock as well and airbox is also production. Inside the air box sits a UNI air filter. The team has options from UNI depending on track conditions to change to a different filter if need be. An Anti-Gravity battery is used to power the motorcycle.
Both Eli and Joey are on Renthal 14/51 gearing combinations. A DID RT2 chain is used with rivot link to increase confidence and peace of mind for racing conditions. The rear axle is titanium and the axle blocks are made in house on the CNC machine. The sprocket bolts are titanium while the nuts are production. The nut is actually a locking nut to help keep them in place.
Another in house made piece is the chain slider. It has been modified to math the gearing combination the team is using. It is actually longer at the gear to guide the chain perfectly onto the sprocket and avoid issues of it slipping off.
One thing you will notice with the bikes sitting next to each other is the color of Joey’s spring vs Eli’s. Justin explained that it looks like a titanium spring but in fact it is a steel. That is for a preferred feel.
A close up look at the Showa BFRC Shock used on Joey Savatgy’s bike. Showa spent a lot of time this year developing this shock for supercross and improving performance in places like the whoops.
An in house link is made to match Joey’s riding. The link arm and linkage is all made in house. Again you will see some data acquisition pieces added to the rear shock to collect information while racing. As far as the link arms go multiple variations are made to test with both riders. Kawasaki can make array of parts on the fly during the race season if the rider wants to test something new.
An SR rear master cylinder is added to the motorcycle. It doesn’t have a window in the back to avoid it breaking open during collision or mud packing against it. The caps are anodized with the riders number in it. The brake clevis is tailored for quick pedal changes instead of cotter pins. The brake line is stock but wired up so the slider doesn’t move. You will also notice the Pro Circuit exhaust now has a ribbed protective piece on it. This is to help protect a crucial area of the pipe internally while racing. The rider squeezes hard there as well as the bike getting hit so the team wanted to ensure more protection in this area.
An OEM caliper is polished and SR banjo bolts are wired by Justin. A production pad is used with production style rear rotor.
DID STX wheels are mounted to the bike. For the SR hub a special nipple and spoke combination is require for the package to be complete.
A new piece to the Factory Kawasaki bikes this year is the unique looking Pro Circuit header. Justin explained that it is performance based but top secret why it is there. He did say that power was very good and the was custom made to the SR package.
In the swing arm pivot is a pressed in slug that stays in the bike. It is called a brake stop. If an impact occurs to the brake pedal the guts of the brake could potentially get pulled out. With this brake stop (top of brake pedal area) it keeps the brake pedal from slamming upward and pulling out the guts of the brake system. An SR pedal is added to the brake with a folding tip. The brake snake you see is tied to prevent from debris getting caught in the pedal and causing the brake to get locked up or burn up. It also prevents it from getting bent outward. The braided steel used to make the brake sneak is military grade. It is attached to an engine mount behind skid plate. Hinson provides the clutches. A production plate stack is added and a heavier SR spring is added. Depending on the track Joey can be harder on the clutches if the layout is more demanding.
Some teams will run a O2 sensor or “bung” to collect data on their exhaust. Justin explained that they have specific headers from Pro Circuit to attach the sensor on when/if they are recording that data. When they dyno the bikes and engine they always have it on. It is in the truck at all times at the races if they need it.
One major difference between Eli and Joey is the amount of throttle play they prefer to have. While Joey likes to run about no play at all, Eli runs around a quarter turn of free play in his throttle. The throttle cable is stock.
A back up starter button is added to the motorcycle in the event of crash or malfunction with the electric start on the handlebars. Joey can press this button any time and get the bike going during a race or practice.
An in house made hole shot device is added to Joey’s bike. The depth of the device does not change and their is no requirement for a double button. Justin explained that with the change of consistent metal starts each weekend, Joey can run the same start position no matter what. Even with rain conditions the amount of grip doesn’t threaten where the front end of the bike is positioned on gate drop. Justin called it a 145mm button height.
A spec front and rear tire are used. These are tires that Dunlop and Kawasaki are working on for future tires to hit production. Joey uses a different pattern in the front and the rear crosses over to both Kawasaki riders.
Wheel base length does change with triple clamp offset, lug offset, bearing race offset and even the axle position can change it. It is all about adjusting for stability and still have good cornering. Justin explained that from top to bottom this bike is tailored for Joey. Everything is inspected and dynoed each week to provide Joey the very best each race weekend. That means that the bike is broken down to the frame and every individual part is over looked to either be replaced or lubricated before returning back on the bike. Justin did make an interesting point. During the triple crown races, Kawasaki will have 2 identical bikes ready for racing that evening for both Joey and Eli. Very similar to Moto GP they will have a back up bike just in case. Justin explained that the team needed to take every advantage possible to ensure their riders can perform at top level. A new set of Acerbis plastics, new graphics, and seat cover are added to the bike each weekend.