Track-Prepping a ZX-6R

Preparing the ZX-6R for Track Day

Track days are great fun — the highlight of the year for me. I try to take in about one a month during the riding season.

A couple of years ago I was able to make a purchase that increases the track day enjoyment a lot. I bought an old set of fibreglass race bodywork from a friend who was getting out of 600cc racing. This allows me to take the 6R on the track without its street plastics, which greatly increases my confidence (by removing the worry about scratching something).

For new track day participants: it’s important you understand that you do not have to replace your bodywork for most track days. I’m doing this for an extra level of confidence, but most participants at the track days I attend leave their street bodywork on their bikes. If you do that, there are a few additional rules such as removing mirrors and taping over lights. See this article for preparing a different bike in that way.

Seasoned track riders: you won’t find anything new on this page. This is for novices like me, and is the stuff I wish I knew the first time I tried this conversion. The job usually takes me about 3 hours now, but my first time it took 3 days.

Here’s the work involved in preparing the ZX-6R for a typical track day, which usually requires removing glass, replacing antifreeze with water, and securing fasteners such as oil drain plugs.

I’ve found an order to do the required steps in that seems to optimize the time and generally make the chore go as smoothly as possible:

  1. Remove the street bodywork and lights (or remove mirrors and tape over lights).
  2. Drain the coolant from the radiator and replace with water
  3. Change the oil (if necessary
  4. Safety wire or goop
  5. Install the track bodywork
Here’s the 6R in her street clothes, before track prepping.
Remove both seats.
Then remove the passenger grab handles and the rear fairing.
Remove the license plate holder, rear signal lights, and tail light.
There’s a relay hanging off the left side of the bike that was in the way. I found, through stupidity, that you can’t remove it (it’s the fuel pump relay) so I move it inside the frame,
… to a position vacated by the turn signal relay, which I remove and store with the signal lights.
Remove the rear-view mirrors, being careful not to lose the rubber grommets under them.
Now we’ll remove the upper front fairing. Start by removing the 6 side screws (3 per side).
Next, two long shouldered bolts hold the front of the fairing/windshield assembly in — remove them. (The fairing won’t fall off as it’s supported by the rear-view mirrors mounting bracket).
Now remove the “inner fairings” — small black covers over the ram air ducts on each side.
Once the ram air ducts are exposed, you’ll see a long thin compression spring holds each in place.
Get a fingernail under this spring and roll it back. Repeat on the other side.
Before removing the front fairing, we need to disconnect a ram air pressure hose. It’s not easy to see at first and it’s important. This is looking in front of the handlebars from the right side of the bike.
Squeezing the spring compression clamp with one hand, pull the rubber hose off the metal fitting. (We’ll be transferring this unit to the race bodywork and reconnecting it.)
Finally, disconnect the connector that powers the headlight and signals from the instrument cluster.
Remove the windshield from the front fairing to reuse in the race body.
The front fairing is now being held on only by the shoulders of the threaded rods where the rear-view mirrors were mounted. Gently bend it away from these and remove the fairing.
Careful not to scratch the fairing. Now, we need to take out the ram air ducts to use in the race bodywork.
Turn the front fairing upside down and remove the 4 duct retaining screws.
Then remove the ram air duct and the front bug screen. Set the fairing aside in a safe place.
After removing the fairing, notice and remove the additional rubber grommets that were on the inside of the rear-view mirror mounting points, and set them aside.
Here’s the naked front of the bike.
Remove the lower fairing by removing the 6 hex bolts, 3 per side.
Here’s the completely naked bike.
Now is the perfect time to drain and flush the rad. (Most track days don’t allow antifreeze in liquid-cooled engines because it is very slippery. We’ll flush it out and replace with water.) The drain hole/screw is on the water pump, almost at the lowest point in the cooling system.
Make sure the engine is cold, then remove the radiator cap so air can enter the system from the top.
I usually put a spare pail under the filler cap to catch drips, as liquid will spill out. Coolant is very poisonous. The glycol makes it taste sweet, so if it’s spilled on the floor, your household pet may lick it up.
On the left side of the bike, remove the drain screw from the water pump.
Let the coolant drain out completely, into a clean container. (You can reuse it after the track day.)
The trouble is that, even after the flow stops, you haven’t got all the coolant out of the system. It will be pooled in a variety of low spots.
Remove the thin hose from the overflow tank and allow the overflow tank to drain too.
Next, note this hose is lower than the drain point, so it will have coolant in it. Loosen the hose clamp, remove the hose, drain it, reattach it, and tighten the clamp again.
Next, flush the system by replacing the drain screw, filling the rad with clean filtered or distilled water, running the engine for a few minutes, then draining the system again. Repeat until the water coming out shoes no sign of colour. This usually takes me about 4 or 5 flushings.
(I have no photos of this process, but you just fill, flush, fill, flush, until it comes out clean.)
Now we’ll put the official water in the rad for cooling purposes. Most track days allow you to add “water wetter” to the water. This improves its cooling ability but isn’t slippery. The pink bottle on the right is 2 oz. of water wetter in 2 litres of water.
Fill the rad to the top, and the coolant overflow tank to the line, and start the engine. As it runs, massage the various coolant pipes to encourage any trapped air bubbles to rise out.
Keep running, with the rad cap still off, until you can see that the pump is running and circulating the coolant. Massage those pipes again to be sure there’s no trapped air.
Now stop the engine, put the rad cap on and properly tighten it, and start the engine again. Watch the temperature gauge as the engine warms up.
Somewhere around 103 degrees Celsius you’ll hear the electric fan kick in. Shut everything off and let the engine cool down on its own. Now you have completely cycled and pressure tested the new coolant. Top up the coolant overflow tank to the line now. (Not the Rad — don’t open it on a hot engine.)
Now, while the engine is warm, is the perfect time to change the oil if it needs it. Drain the oil from the bottom.
If you’re changing the filter, remove it and drain the oil from that section.
Smear a little clean oil on the rubber gasket on a new filter.
Covering the gasket evenly with your finger.
and replace the filter, tightening it the amount indicated on the package. On this Fram filter, it says “one full turn from when the rubber gasket touches the bike body”.
Replace and torque the oil drain bolt. Now we’ll put in the new oil.
Put in the specified amount of oil. Run the engine and you’ll see the level drops as the pump fills the oil filter and other reservoirs, then you’ll have to add more oil to get the level correct.
Many track days require major fluid points to be safety wired.
The oil filler cap is wired shut.
The oil drain plug (which I drilled while the plug was removed) is wired shut.

and the radiator drain bolt is wired shut (again, drilled the bolt while it was off the bike). These have always been enough for the amateur level of tracks days I’ve attended. Higher-level days may also require hoses, brake lines, brake shoes, and other connectors to be wired.

Track days oriented toward beginners may not require safety wire at all — some require only that you put some “goop” (silicone sealant) over the oil drain plug.

Here’s the track bodywork, purchased from a friend getting out of 600 racing. The numbers are peel-n-stick vinyl sheet from LetraSet, outline printed in ink jet printer, then cut out with scissors. Most track days require you to number your bike for identification.

You can buy pre-shaped peel-n-stick numbers at stationery stores. Most track days are pretty forgiving about the colours of your numbers but, technically, they should be red. Black is for pro-racers, red is for amateurs.

The ram air ducting is essential for engine operation. We removed it from the street fairing, now install it in the race bodywork.
On a tip from my friend, I don’t bother with screws for most fastenings — just use Zip Ties.
It’s a lot faster and, he says, if you crash there’s a good chance the zip ties will let go rather than having screwed-in plastic get ripped off the bike and destroyed. The front fairing is suspended by the mirror mounting point with Zip ties.
Be sure to re-attach the ram air ducts to the engine air intake pipes.
And, very important, be sure to reattach that little pressure hose in the centre. The engine will start, but will not run under load, if you don’t do this (I know).
I find the right side fairing connector can be zip tied, but the left-side one requires a screw since there isn’t clearance to get a tie through.
Next, put the lower fairing in place, and fasten with ties to the upper fairing.

and the lower mount points.Some track days require you to remove the side stand, while others allow it to stay. I leave it on when permitted for ease of handling the bike trackside.

Reinstall the windshield. (Left until now because it’s easier to reconnect duct work with the windshield out.)
Install the rear fairing. I’ve found the mounting screws much easier to use than zip ties at the front mounting points.
But zip ties work well at the rear. Note I had to cut some of the rear fairing away to get it on over my street fender. The bodywork is designed for non-street bikes where the fender is cut or removed and I didn’t want to do that.
Here we are, all set for the track. At some point I’d like to find a used gas tank to include in the change,
but for now this greatly increases my confidence on the track, as scratching my (bike’s) body is not high on my mind while riding.

5 Comments

  1. Great work with the tech details and references. Thanks

  2. I thank you sir. This came in handy!

  3. Very helpful, TA

  4. I’m rebuilding a 01 zx6r, new plastics, new rims, tons of stuff powder coated, new tires, lights, windscreen, plugs, sprockets, chain, tons of stuff. I have the manual and search forums for answers to my&|60;?’s and I always end up on one of your pages with the answer. Thanks for taking to time to post this, it has proven to be EXTREMELY useful.

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