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By: Jason Giacchino

July 2007 - Off The Pegs

A New Generation of Performance has Begun

Kawasaki KFX450R
Kawasaki KFX450R

It was a day Justin Farmer won’t soon forget, and it is just as unlikely to slip Kawasaki’s collective memory as well. The young racer from Kentucky headed in to his local Kawasaki dealership and ordered a brand new KFX450R while the press was still limited to running photographs of the beast. He then proceeded to enter his new machine in the Production Limited class of the Moose ITP ATVA MX Nationals having performed only the mild modifications required to enter (nerf bars, tether cable, etc.). He, on his yet unproven race quad, went on to win the race!

In doing so, Justin got his name in the books in recording the first official motocross overall victory on the new Kawasaki. Best of all, the machine on which he had won was basically bone stock. Skeptics, pit pundits, and industry insiders were finally treated to the type of situation that has been lacking in the ATV world for nearly two decades: Race-worthy equipment that can be purchased right off the showroom floor.

In finally releasing a 450cc entrant to the performance class, Kawasaki has completed the puzzle of the Japanese quartet. In fact, many of the ATV print magazines are finally publishing the results of their 450 shootouts. I know I’ve been reading them with great interest and not even so much to find out which quad comes out on top. Rather, I’m just thrilled to witness the return of the race-intended ATV market. Long have quads been sold as recreational toys while their two-wheeled and ski- & track-equipped cousins enjoyed closed competition status (and with the title, technology handed down from factory race team efforts). In addition to dropping a performance oriented ATV on the scene this year, Kawasaki has backed up their lavish marketing campaign with cold hard cash in the form of their now legendary Team Green contingency program (which just so happens to turn 25 years-old this year).

As if the Asian attention to the 450 class hasn’t been exciting enough, it is finally beginning to look like Austria has grown tired of sitting on the sidelines. Off-road juggernaut KTM has recently made their presence known at the opening round of the Extreme Dirt Track series. Tim Farr did for KTM what Farmer had done for Kawasaki--He Logged KTM’s first ATV victory in its first time out (in the ProAm Unlimited class). It is hard to imagine a more effective marketing campaign for the soon-to-be-released 450XC & 525XC than a handful of race wins aboard them.

Can-Am DS450
Can-Am DS450

Can-Am, who has been quite tight-lipped about their upcoming 450, finally let the cat out of the bag with their upcoming DS450 EFI. As the EFI in the name suggests, this steed, like the Suzuki LT450R and Kawasaki KFX450R, will be electronically fuel injected. Aside from that fact, Can Am boasts that their model will offer the lowest weight in its class, lowest unsprung weight, most centralized mass, and the highest horsepower numbers. Such claims have yet to be proven, but their online video does a commendable job of displaying the DS450’s manners on a well-groomed motocross track:

The past few seasons have witnessed a worldwide shift in attention. It has been interesting as an enthusiast to watch as this latest batch of high-performance quads has gone from concept sketch, to prototype, to race-winning hardware. Even more impressive is that manufacturer claims of race-ready stock ATVs have finally become a recent reality as evidenced by the results page rather than advertising slogans. Expect to witness a surge of interest and participation on down to the amateur ranks and growth of the ATV class at local MX tracks across the nation. These are great times to be a manufacturer of high performance ATVs, even better times for the enthusiasts who have been waiting patiently . . . some more patiently than others.

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