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04-27-2005, 09:29 PM
2005 Supersport Shootout - Track Test
By Kevin Duke
Photos By Brian J. Nelson

Okay, we assume you're already up to speed after reading the street version of our Supersport test, so now you're ready to really get up to speed.

The four supersport machines assembled here have such great performance capabilities that it's only at their outer limits that one can hone in on how differently they rate. Although we know we're not alone in enjoying riding briskly on the street, we also know that it's only in the controlled conditions of a racetrack that we feel comfortable in exploring the outer limits of a sportbike's performance envelope.

For those who may not care about how these bikes perform on the track because you don't plan to take your supersport there, shame on you. Going to a track-based riding school is still one of the best investments a rider can make, and open trackdays are springing up all around the country. You'll find out things you never knew about riding and you'll have the time of your life. Don't be intimidated and stop making excuses!

In a softer tone, you may also read about how these bikes performed under street situations by checking out our Street Shootout.

You may already be tired of hearing of how closely matched this quartet is, and indeed the differences are quite few. Here are some stats to chew on:

- All four share a DOHC, 16-valve, liquid-cooled, transverse inline-Four motor.
- Each uses aluminum alloy for their frames, subframes and swingarms.
- Each uses a single-shock rear suspension and an inverted fork, all fully adjustable.
- Fuel-injection throttle body sizes vary only 2mm, from 38mm to 40mm.
- Each has radial-mount brake calipers up front.
- Each uses ram-air induction for greater horsepower at high speeds.
- Each has a 180mm rear and 120mm front tires in 17-inch diameters.
- The wheelbases of this group vary by less than 1 inch.
- Maximum horsepower falls into an 8-horsepower range. - Peak horsepower occurs within a 500-rpm window.
- Peak torque figures are within 3 lb-ft of each other.
- Just over 0.2-second separates this group in quarter-mile dragstrip times.
- Only 5 pounds separate the lightest from the porkiest.

Well, there you go—they're obviously so closely matched that there's no need to write the test anymore…

Not so fast, Motul breath. There are plenty of differences that make each bike distinct from the other, and the track is the best place to divine what they are. We first headed to the undulating Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California, to join our new buds at Zoom Zoom Trackdays. Reps from Honda, Kawasaki and Yamaha came along to help us hone the bike set-ups to suit our riders. Unfortunately, we had only limited time aboard the GSX-R600 on this day and it wasn't fitted with a set of Dunlop's sticky D208GPs like the other bikes. Check out this story to read why.

Pushing aside deadlines, we scheduled another session on the track a few days later, this time with our pals at Pacific Track Time at the gnarly Thunderhill Raceway north of Sacramento. On this occasion, we rode all four bikes for the entire day, and this time each bike was equipped with identical Dunlop rubber.

Reporting for track duty is our usual cadre of supersport testers, including staffers Don Becklin, Ken Hutchison, Brian Chamberlain and myself, along with multi-time OMRRA champ Shawn Roberti. FoK (Friends of Korf) will be sad to hear that our prolific Brian Korfhage didn't get any track time on these bikes. We made him shoot the accompanying video and street photography as punishment for crashing a Gixxer on cold tires during last year's supersport test.

After taking reams of notes for two solid days, we strapped on our trick Vbox data logger at Thunderhill to back up our impressions with hard data like lap times, corner speeds and maximum speeds attained at the end of the front straight.

As with the street portion of our shootout , we'll run though each bike one at a time, beginning alphabetically.

04-27-2005, 09:31 PM
2005 Supersport Shootout - Track Test

Honda CBR600RR

The Honda faithful in the MCUSA office weren't too happy that their bike placed fourth in our street shootout. Sadly, one of these stellar supersports had to be ranked last, and the CBR's relatively wimpy motor and brick-like seat dragged it down the rankings.

We're happy to report that the CBR's seat and short windscreen don't hold it back on the track. "It feels closest to a racebike," says Chamberlain, another former racer in our group. The hard seat, low bars and up-over-the-front riding position, which hurt the CBR's score on the street, feel ideal for track use. The bike is narrow, nimble and turns in quick."

In the high-speed environment of the track, the Honda stands out most for its unflappable stability, aided by the perfect setup for track work provided by former World Endurance champ Doug Toland, now a chief tester for Honda's R&D department (and a guy who beat Kevin Schwantz in a Willow Springs race 20 years ago). The composed CBR shrugs off bumps, ripples and dips almost like they don't exist.

"The CBR felt the most composed over the rough stuff," gushes Chamberlain. "Bumps were easily soaked up without any disruption to the chassis, which enabled greater confidence in the corners. With a lot of the rider's weight up over the front of the bike, it enables you to have a good feel for what the front end is doing. Stability at mid-corner is as good as any, and its front-end feel and stability ranks at the top of the score sheet."

Infineon's high-speed Turn 1 uphill section can be an intimidating challenge, but the CBR feels especially planted here, bolstering rider confidence. It was also the most stable through Thunderhill's fast and bumpy Turn 8 left-hander, aided by its more rigid fork and uprated frame. It's stable and solid, with no twitches in hard steering transitions like the older bike would sometimes do. Fast-guy Roberti also heaped praise on the CBR's solid chassis, noting a high level of feedback and a small, light feeling he said is "almost perfect everywhere."

Where the CBR isn't perfect, as on the street, is in the motor department. More power is almost always better, and the Honda has less. Roberti took out the CBR first, and he came back commending its motor. His second CBR stint occurred after riding the ZX and R6, and his opinion changed to calling it "a little soft" in comparison. Becklin concurred, calling the CBR "pretty anemic."

"It lacks midrange punch," Becklin elaborates. "You really do have to be in the right gear with the CBR or the thing just won't pull. It forces you to think a lot about gear changes, engine revs, tach position/shift light in order to get good drives. It takes attention away from just riding in order to make up for its power deficit."

Another engine-related distraction on the CBR is its harsh throttle response when reapplying power. This can sap confidence when coming into a corner too hot and have to back out of the throttle before re-applying power on the exit, its rider being timid with the twistgrip for fear of a quick lurch of power that might cause a sudden loss of traction at high lean angles. The R6 also shares this liability.

As we noted during the street testing, the Honda seems to have taller gearing than the others, especially in first and second gears. While going through spec charts, we found that the CBR has by far the tallest final-drive ratio, 2.688:1. While the ZX-6R uses a 15/43 sprocket combination (2.867:1), the 600s here use a 16-tooth countershaft sprocket with a variety of rear sprocket sizes. The CBR's 43-tooth rear is the smallest of the bunch (GSX-R - 45; R6 – 48), giving it less of a torque-multiplication advantage. Honda counters this with relatively shorter gearing in the transmission and less of a step between gears, but its overall ratios in the first two gears are still taller than the rest. Although this is a drawback on the street, it can actually save an upshift on the track.

"Whereas the other bikes would top out and require another gear," explains Chamberlain, "you could often get by without the extra shift on the CBR. This is somewhat irrelevant as most serious track riders will gear the bike for that specific track anyway, but I thought it worth mentioning because I think it unfairly hurt the CBR's sense of power when driving out of low-speed corners."

The CBR's stock gearing can also work against it. Infineon Raceway has a couple of low-speed corners that forced the CBR rider to select a lower gear than the others and, unlike the Kawasaki, the Honda can get a bit squirrelly during high-rpm downshifts. "I wish the ZX-6R's slipper clutch was on the CBR," says Becklin, "because I was constantly dropping one more gear than the others bikes and the rear end would protest with some interesting wiggles."

Ratios aside, the CBR's gearbox performs its shifts smoothly under max power, something the Yamaha can't claim. It was only once the Suzuki arrived to our test that the RR got lowered from the top of the transmission rankings.

Braking performance in this crowd is nothing short of stellar, and the CBR's radial-mount calipers and 310mm rotors are beyond what we could imagine on a stock streetbike just five years ago. Still, our testers rated the Honda brakes last by a hair, likely due to it being the only one not equipped with one of the trendy radial-pump master cylinders. The CBR is also the only one without a remotely mounted brake reservoir, which can make fixing crash damage more expensive.

Overall, it's the CBR's remarkable poise that keeps it in high regard. The Honda encourages confidence in every rider that gets on board. "It's very fun to ride on the racetrack," Becklin sums up. "It's a good handler and is confidence inspiring. The CBR really encourages extreme lean angles – it's fun to see how far over you can get it."

Note Pad
- Pegs touch the earliest at a racer's pace.
- Headshake can be induced on the usually stable CBR with the addition of Dunlop's D208GP race-compound tires.
- While the others roared up on their back wheels in first gear when coming onto the front straight at Infineon, the CBR was reluctant to mono-wheel, whether due to the anti-wheelie characteristic of the Unit Pro-Link rear end or to the softest midrange of the group.
- The only one without a thumbwheel clutch adjuster on the left clip-on.

04-27-2005, 09:32 PM
2005 Supersport Shootout - Track Test

Kawasaki ZX-6R

The Zixxer has had a motor advantage ever since it debuted with its "cheater" motor in 2003, but its overall rankings were held back by a chassis that didn't feel as sorted as its competition. Now with this new iteration, there's nothing aside from a silly tachometer that holds it back.

In years past, bikes like the R6 and CBR were heralded for their natural and rider-friendly characteristics, and the ZX-6R now joins that club. Our testers raved about the ZX's radical improvement in rider comfort and neutral handling. Its roomy cockpit gives a rider several body-position options, and a change to more conservative steering geometry endows the Kaw with a less skittery and more confidence-inspiring ride.

My first session at Infineon was on the ZX, and I came back muttering to myself that this bike surely must be the winner. Unlike the previous version that took some cojones to extract its best, this new one is entirely cooperative.

"It's a night-and-day improvement over last year's bike in every way," reveals Roberti after his first stint. "Its chassis is very solid and it handles bumps on the track very well."

Kawasaki relaxed the ZX's rake and added stability-inducing trail for '05, but the chassis still responds rapidly to steering inputs thanks in part to the leverage provided by the wide-set clip-ons.

"The bike was a little slower on turn-in compared to the CBR and R6, but made up for it with stability and how it holds a line," Becklin relates, adding, "I might lower the front (for quicker responses) just a bit if it were my bike."

Lowering the front end, though, would steepen the rake and lessen the trail, which might make the mad Kaw a bit too nervous. As it is, the ZX's class-leading power can induce some headshake with the race-compound Dunlops spooned on. Its motor pulls the hardest, so it's more prone to wagging its head.

"This was most noticeable at Thunderhill in between turns 1 and 2," explains BC. "The ZX pulls so hard coming over the rise that the front end is very light, and it sometimes resulted in some pretty nervous clip-ons." It should be said here that the R6 and CBR also exhibited mild headshake on the race rubber, and we'd recommend a steering damper for those who spend a lot of time at the track.

While the roomier riding position gives more options for riders of various sizes, a few of our testers believed it also made the ZX feel bigger and longer than the others. "Ergonomically," says BC, "the bike is vastly improved, but it is not quite as aggressive as the CBR and R6. While this helped its score on the street, I feel it hurts it on the track."

With an extra 37cc, it's no surprise that the ZX is nearly in a class by itself in terms of outright power. At Infineon, we had fun getting hard on the gas at the exit of the carousel, hastily accelerating fast enough to pull past Ducatis and RC51s on the following straight. The ZX squirts out of corners almost like a 750, easily leaving bikes like the CBR in its dust. And unlike the Honda and Yamaha, the ZX has very smooth throttle response.

"The motor is hands-down the best in the class," says the surprisingly talkative Chamberlain, before noting that the ZX can't be raced in most 600cc competitions. "It pulls considerably harder exiting corners and continues pulling hard all the way to redline."

As if the extra cubes weren't enough to separate the ZX from this group, it also comes with another tool exclusive to this quartet: a slipper clutch. Borrowed from last year's race-spec ZX-6RR, the back-torque-limiting device was nearly as dominant in pit-side conversations as the mega motor. The trick clutch aids not only multiple downshifts when braking, but it also lessens lower-speed off-throttle abruptness.

"One of the biggest highlights for me is the slipper clutch," says BC, a Yamaha TZ250 owner that appreciates a lack of compression braking. "Now, even the laziest, most unskilleddownshifter can still enter the corner smooth as silk."

Basically, a slipper clutch lets the rear wheel roll more freely when the engine is compression braking, so a poorly timed downshift won't result in a hopping or chattering tire. It simply makes sport riding easier. We said it in our street test, but it's worth mentioning again: One day all sportbikes will have some form of slipper clutch, and Kawasaki leads the way in this class.

"The strong motor and ability to confidently bang downshifts using the slipper clutch means it's easy to get the bike into a gear that pulls out of the corner," Becklin notes.

The Zixxer shines in other areas, too, boasting some other unique features. Its brakes are perhaps the best in this tough crowd—its system of a radial-pump master cylinder and radial-mount 4-piston calipers are not exclusive to the ZX, but its 300mm petal-style rotors and higher-spec 4-pad-per-caliper arrangement is. These killer binders are powerful and easy to modulate, and speed retardation is assisted by the slick slipper clutch.

We should also note that the ZX's new Showa suspension works much better than the Kayaba dampers on the old bike. Once we adjusted to the bike to accommodate the race rubber, we never felt a need to fiddle with its settings. Then at Thunderhill, a much bumpier track, we took out a half-turn of front compression damping and were able to leave it alone the rest of the day. "It seems impressive to me that the bike was set up early and worked well all day," says Becklin.

Like a pimple on the nose of a supermodel, the ZX-6R's glaring wart is its unintelligible tachometer. A progression of lights sweeps around the digital speedometer, but its LCD display is nearly impossible to read at a glance in daylight. Some of us didn't care much, relying instead on its shift light, but others found it inexcusable.

"The tach is even more of a hindrance on the track than on the street," says BC. "On the street you are usually shifting by feel and usually shifting far below redline, but on the track where you can actually rev the bike out, it would be nice to see where you are at in the rpm range."

Note Pad
- On-board stopwatch.
- Decent gearbox, but not as cooperative at the GSX-R's and CBR's.
- Refined feel: "Kawasaki did a very good job in the detail department. Nothing vibrates or rattles and it feels well put together." –Becklin
- Lighter, #520 chain and sprockets.
- Windscreen too low and swept back for some riders. "You'd have to be a pygmy with a shrunken head to get behind that thing." –Becklin

04-27-2005, 09:34 PM
2005 Supersport Shootout - Track Test

Suzuki GSX-R600

What's up with us and Gixxers, anyway? We had to wait a long time for a Gixxer 6 last year, then promptly crashed it, causing an even longer wait for a replacement. This year wasn't much of an improvement. Read our Supersport Prologue to find out what happened this time around.

So, unfortunately for the GSX-R600, it came late to our party and was the only to arrive without factory support. Our first experience with this bike, unchanged for '05, was about mid-way through out Zoom Zoom trackday at Infineon. The guys at Motorcycle.com graciously handed over their loaner to us, but their setup didn't work at all for us. Making things more sketchy were the stock Dunlop D218 tires that paled in comparison to the race-compound Dunlops on our other test bikes.

With time in such short supply we only did some minor knob twiddling to the Suzuki's suspension, making it better but not perfect. And the relatively slippery tires would have to stay on until Thunderhill.

At Infineon, we enjoyed the squirt offered by the GSX-R's healthy midrange that nearly rivals the class-busting Kawasaki, piling on speed where some others were waiting to hit the meat of their powerbands. This makes it much easier to ride fast for those who aren't accustomed to revving the piss out of their bike. However, the Gixxer's power curve tapers off after 11,000 rpm while the others continue to gain power with revs, blunting its ultimate acceleration. As such, its powerband is nearly the complete opposite of the CBR's.

"It does feel like it has more midrange than the CBR," affirms Becklin, "but it tops out kinda quick."

A small glitch in the Gixxer's powerband cropped up at the exit of Thunderhill's Cyclone corner, essentially a mini version of Laguna Seca's Corkscrew. The entry to the initial left-hander is at the top of a rise, and the track plummets downhill immediately after. The slow right-hander that lies at the bottom of the gully seems to demand 1st gear, but its increasing-radius exit warrants 2nd gear. Here, lugging in 2nd gear, the GSX-R demonstrated a boggy response at about 5500 rpm, a condition verified by our dyno charts.

Otherwise, the GSX'R's titanium-valved engine is a very cooperative partner on the track. Like the others, its overrev past the power peak is very useful for saving an upshift prior to braking for the next corner. Unlike the Honda and Yamaha, Suzuki's SDTV throttle valve system and double-barrel throttle-body design responds without an unsettling lurch. "The GSX-R offered very smooth throttle response no matter how ham-fisted I was," states the self-deprecating Hutchison.

While Yamaha and Kawasaki have been relaxing the steering geometry of their 600s, the Suzuki's geometry is now the raciest. The rake angle of the others falls into the 24.0-to-25.0-degree range, but the Gixxer's fork is set at a more upright 23.3 degrees. And its trail, listed at 94mm, is the least among this group, though just barely below the CBR and R6.

Now that may sound like it adds up to a twitchy motorcycle, but the GSX-R counters that aggressive steering with the only wheelbase longer than 50 inches (55.1) and with the only factory-installed steering damper in this quartet. As a result, the Gixxer steers fairly quick yet remains stable in nearly all conditions.

"The bike was planted on faster corners but required a bit of muscle on tighter sections," Becklin notes.

Thanks to the quick response of American Suzuki's Garret Kai, we received Suzuki's recommended track settings for the GSX-R in time for our day at Thunderhill. Its suspension performed much better after its adjustments, but it remained the bike that moved around on its dampers more than the others. The many bumps at T-Hill seemed to confuse the Gixxer, and it almost feels as if there is some frame flex, a condition not helped by its thickly padded seat that lets a rider's body move around too much during fast laps on a racetrack.

Brake duties are ably handled by a pair of 300mm rotors up front, gripped by 4-piston calipers and actuated with a radial-pump master cylinder. Like the ZX, the Suzuki uses Tokico calipers, but they are an older generation design that uses just two pads each to the Kawasaki's four. While the brakes are very strong and never faded for us, we did notice a tendency for the rear end to get tail-happy under heavy braking that shook a bit of confidence to run it in deep into the corners.

Continuing a long tradition of excellent transmissions, the Suzuki's is as slick as snot. A rider is free to concentrate on riding instead of wondering if the next cog is going to snick quickly into place. It's the one category the GSX-R clearly tops.

Note Pad
- Tons of aftermarket support.
- Best racer's contingency in the industry.
- Feels bigger than the others.
"Generally a good bike, but nothing about it really blew me away." –Becklin

04-27-2005, 09:35 PM
2005 Supersport Shootout - Track Test

Yamaha YZF-R6

As the winner of our two previous supersport shootouts, it's more than obvious we like the R6. Its dominant characteristic is its playfulness, feeling ever enthusiastic to get down to work. And that hasn't changed for '05, despite more relaxed steering geometry and the addition of an inverted fork and larger throttle bodies.

We were really impressed with the R6's steering characteristics on its stock tires, but the race-compound Dunlops we fitted for the track called for an adjustment to its ride height to get it to sit at its proper attitude. Since there's no provision for changing the rear ride height, Yamaha's technician Mike Ulrich lowered the fork tubes in the triple clamps to compensate for the taller rear tire, leaving an odd-looking gap in the top triple-tree.

First session out, the R6 felt strange. It was initially reluctant to turn but then rolled over too quickly once the turn was initiated. We pulled into the pits and had Ulrich put the fork back to stock, but the steeper rake and less trail brought on by the tall rear tire caused the front end to act nervous. Next time out, splitting the difference in fork height, was just right.

Once sorted, the Yamaha again became its friendly self, feeling lithe and athletic at the hands of our testers.

"The R6 fit me best," says the five-foot-eleven Becklin, a guy who not only signs our paychecks but who is also the nicest, most charismatic and attractive man you'll ever meet. "It feels like a small repli-racer but I can still get behind the windscreen and ride it comfortably while staying in an aggressive riding position."

We were all impressed by the R6's newfound stability on the track. Its revised steering geometry, frame revisions, inverted fork and stiffer springs have paid off with a more confidence-inspiring riding impression in demanding track conditions. But that's not to say the bike has lost its frisky appetite for slicing through corners, as this thing absolutely slashed though the gaggles of literbikes in the esses and chicanes at Infineon.

"The R6 is the quickest steering of the bunch and doesn't require much input to get the bike turned in," says Chamberlain, nearly creating a Yamaha PR pull-quote before adding, "Mid-corner is stable on the R6, but you don't quite have the same front-end feel as you do on the CBR."

"It feels similar to the Honda," chimes in Hutchison, "but the CBR is just more stable when you really get to pushing it."

The R6 joins the rest of the group in that each could benefit from the addition of a steering damper when using race-compound tires on the track. We also had handlebar-wagging moments on the CBR and ZX, and the R6 once gave me a vicious headshake after a high-rpm shift to 3rd gear on the front straight at Thunderhill that nearly spit me off.

The motor in the R6, once the biggest bore and shortest stroke in the class, now has the smallest bore, 65.5mm to the 67.0mm slugs in the R6 and CBR (and ZX-6RR). This more undersquare design theoretically promotes torque production, but Yamaha has added larger throttle bodies for '05 to achieve the best top-end numbers among the 599cc bikes. On the track, the Yamamotor stands above all but the cheater Kawasaki. The dip of its powerband at 8500 rpm is a distant memory in the high-rev world of racetracks, and the explosive hit soon after never fails to thrill.

The R6's only real hitch is how the bike delivers its power to the track. We didn't appreciate its abrupt throttle response when re-applying power for all the same reasons we noted in the CBR's section. Also, it must be said that the R6's transmission received complaints for its harshness and its reluctance to upshift at a race pace.

"Its shifting was very notchy and refused to engage shifting up without the clutch a few times," whines Becklin.

Opinions of the R6's brakes varied among our testers. While Roberti scored them as average, others preferred their ease of modulation thanks to less initial grabbiness. There's plenty of power available with an assertive pull, aided by its Brembo radial-pump master cylinder (the Gixxer and ZX use a Nissen component) that offers excellent feel.

Note Pad
- Metal pegs can be slippery.
- Firmest brake lever
- Handlebars feel highest in relation to the seat.

04-27-2005, 09:37 PM
2005 Supersport Shootout - Track Test

Time Waits For No Bike

When it comes down to speaking of how a bike performs on a racetrack, the real crucible is the stopwatch. Or, in our case, our snazzy Vbox data logger.

Before hitting the track, we fitted each bike with identical sets of race-compound rubber so we'd be testing bikes and not different tires. We called up Dunlop to order several sets of its D208GP-JLB that debuted just a few months ago (not to be confused with the brand-new multi-compound Sportmax GP that was announced at Daytona a few weeks ago).

This is a new version of Dunlop's D208GP supersport tire that is developed and manufactured in the USA. The "JLB" suffix is an acronym for Dunlop's Jointless Band construction, something it uses in its rear tire for "top-level traction, rider-friendly set-up and exceptionally responsive turning characteristics." Dunlop says the tire's new construction delivers an improved ability to yield to bumpy pavement, and it claims it's more neutral steering to allow fine changes to a racer's line through the corners.

Once past the tires' slippery stage while scrubbing them in, the Dunlops didn't cease to impress.

"They seemed to heat up quickly and the grip was excellent throughout the day," says Becklin, a former racer who has been on countless sets of race rubber. "I always felt comfortable flicking the bikes on their sides with these tires under me. Even when the laps were piling up, the 208GPs just kept sticking."

Our gang praised the Dunlops' grip and the amount of feedback offered. We've tested several brands of race-compound tires in the past—including previous Dunlops—but at least one of us thinks these new buns might be the best yet.

"Compared to the other track tires we have used on the track and at shootouts, I'd rate the Dunlop D208GPs at the top of the list," Becklin says assuredly. "When the tires did break traction, they slid predictably. This gives you confidence to push hard, knowing you'd get some warning before they let go. Confidence-inspiring is the term that comes to mind. I'm not sure if it's the fact that these tires are now made in the U.S. or that there are changes in compound or construction, but they work great."

We decided to wait until Thunderhill to run lap times because the GSX-R wasn't on equal "footing" at Infineon Raceway. Those who haven't been to Thunderhill before are missing out on a fun and challenging track. Located north of Sacramento, the 3.0-mile track's most entertaining feature is its couple of elevation changes that sweep up and down the area's rolling hills. And unlike the smooth surface of Infineon, T-Hill's gnarly asphalt is a real test of how well a suspension works at speed. The track has had as many surface reconstructions as Cher.

04-27-2005, 09:38 PM
005 Supersport Shootout - Track Test

We were at Thunderhill as guests of the friendly and helpful guys at Pacific Track Time, and we spent the better part of the day circulating the track without pushing for quick lap times, busy as we were with gathering video, taking notes, setting up bikes and trying not to crash. I was eventually fitted with the Vbox mid-afternoon as traffic began to dwindle and was sent out to run at least four clean laps of data on each bike. We'd be logging not only lap times but also the actual maximum speed (not the numbers on the highly inaccurate stock speedometers) attained at the end of Thunderhill's front straight.

This would be a tough task. Not only would I be trying to avoid slower riders on the track, I'd be doing it while trying for the first time all day to cut some laps as quick as I dared. My internal stopwatch told me I was quickest on the ZX and R6, so I decided to take them out first in case they might've had an unfair advantage by going out with more fast laps under my belt. Here's how it shook out.

Thunderhill Fastest Lap Times

1. Kawasaki ZX-6R: 2:14.6
Even though I went out on it first, the mighty ZX prevailed in this contest. Aided by strong brakes, reasonably light steering, admirable mid-corner stability and its enviable slipper clutch, the Kawasaki stomped the smaller bikes at Thunderhill. There are a couple of sections of track—such as the uphill climb from Turn 8 to Turn 9—that the 6R is noticeably faster. Its speed at the end of the front straight, 136.1 mph was the fastest of the group.

2. Yamaha YZF-R6: 2:15.5
The Yamaha's speed at the end of the front straight gives a bit of a clue why it was the quickest 600 on this day. The R6 logged a highly creditable 133.7 mph, second only to the big ZX. A high trap speed means there's more acceleration at hand, and the R6's lower gearing and wailing top end gets down the road quicker than the other 600s.

3. Suzuki GSX-R600: 2:16.9
Although the Gixxer's chassis feels solid and its steering damper calms its bars at speed, the Suzi didn't inspire confidence in us quite like the others. Its midrange lunge helps it pick up time on the CBR, but only just barely, and its trap speed of 129.7 mph was the slowest.

4. Honda CBR600RR: 2:17.2
It basically comes down to the motor, folks. Even though I was no longer braking for the high-speed Turn 8 like I was on the ZX and R6, it wasn't enough to gain back what it lost on the straights. At Infineon, a venue that doesn't have long periods of full-throttle acceleration like Thunderhill, we're sure the CBR was capable of running right with the quickest. Its trap speed on the front straight of 131.1 mph is testimony to its high corner speed on the exit of the final turn.

04-27-2005, 09:39 PM
2005 Supersport Shootout - Track Test

Rank And File

Let's preface this by reiterating what is becoming a cliché in this class: These bikes are so very closely matched, and there are no bad ones here, so there are no real losers. The last-placed bike in our test just might be the perfect match for you. And regarding lap times, let's remember they came from a fast trackday rider and not a pro racer. Your mileage may vary.

Fourth Place – Suzuki GSX-R600
We battled setup issues at both tracks and never really got it feeling like a class beater. It does the job and performs well, but its scores were decidedly mid-pack other than for its transmission and torque. "The Suzuki has the right stuff," says Hutchison. "The problem lies in its competition."

Third Place – Yamaha YZF-R6
This one was a real squeaker. "Yeah but," we hear you say, "it was the quickest 600 around the track." Well, that was in the hands of just a single rider. When the ballots were tallied among our five testers, the improved Yamaha came up just a bit short. But other than needing its clutch for racing upshifts, the R6 does nothing wrong. "The R6 is the bike that doesn't totally stand out in any one area but just does everything well," notes Chamberlain.

Second Place – Honda CBR600RR
Okay, so it's a little weird that the third-quickest bike at Thunderhill was scored higher than the lap-time runner up, but don't forget we also rated the bikes for their performance at Infineon, a circuit where the Honda showed competitive pace. Based on its totally solid chassis that never failed to encourage rider confidence, the CBR was ranked higher than the Yamaha by three of our testers, and one even rated the Honda highest. "Its slight lack of low-end and mid-range power makes it a little slower coming out of the corners," notes Chamberlain, "but in the areas where you can keep the rpm's up it feels right on par."

First Place – Kawasaki ZX-6R
So the ZX comes out on top, just as it did on the street. Kawasaki has finally given the baby Ninja a chassis that can keep up with its stellar engine, completing a total package of terrific brakes, neutral handling, a better riding position and that slipper clutch that we're so enamored with. Not to mention the burly 636cc of power. Basically, the Kaw clearly has the most motor and does nothing wrong.

"The 636 motor really shines at the track, enabling you to take full advantage of its extra horsepower," says Chamberlain. Adds Roberti, "The Kaw stands on top when at a full race pace."

02-13-2009, 11:28 PM
HONDA FTW period.

02-14-2009, 01:05 PM
...waiting on the 2009 shootout!

02-17-2009, 12:57 PM
...street edition, stay tuned for the track version

over all, as has become customary, the big four are very very close. even though there are slights differences that have put one bike slightly above the rest, it's minimal. And we can really see that when last years top dog, the CRB 600 RR, got knocked off its podium and down to 3rd.

The Kawi ZX6R with major changes takes top honors this year with its many changes to drop a reported 22 pounds and leading the 600 class in HP.

The Suzuki comes in at second place.

As Stated before, the Honda in 3rd.

and the Yamaha in 4th.