Master Bike 2002

Table of contents


Master Bike 2002

Master Bike 2002
The need for speed

Twelve testers from eleven countries have only one thing in mind for the world’s largest sports motorcycle test on the racetrack this year: step on the gas.

Matthias Schroter, Gerhard Lindner


How fast is it? The most frequently asked question on the first day of the Master Bike 2002. This information does not actually exist for the driver. Traditionally, stopwatches are officially prohibited. Of course, MOTORRAD test boss Gerhard »Gegesch« Lindner knows that too. But a racing driver without lap times? It’s like flying blind. And the times of Christer Lindholm are of great interest to Gegesch. After all, the Swede is one of the highly regarded newcomers at the Master Bike, this unique event, concocted and organized by the racing-crazy Spaniards of MOTORRAD’s sister magazine Motociclismo.
The rules: so simple, so clear. Wanted: the fastest super sports car of the year, here on the tricky Almeria circuit. Twelve motorcycles, divided into three classes ?? Supersport, Superbike and Open Class ?? go to the start, the fastest motorcycle in each class makes it to the final. The rest are allowed to pack up ahead of time. Darwin sends his regards. Three manufacturers are missing. Triumph apologizes because of the major fire at the Hinckley, MV, plant, it is said, are plagued by completely different worries at the moment, namely monetary concerns. And Aprilia, according to the rumor in the paddock, fear for the consequences if the RSV mille R does not take on the arch rival Ducati 998 R enforce. Last year, the narrow defeat of the R would have led to a sharp drop in sales for the entire Mille series.
Which reflects the importance that southern Europeans attach to this event. Master Bike, that’s coming for the Motociclismo colleagues right after the Spanish Grand Prix. A question of honor for the motorcycles, but also for the testers who compete here. Of course, nobody likes to admit that directly. Moto Sprint test boss Claudio Corsetti describes it as follows: “We push each other to 100 percent, then we can tease out the limits of every motorcycle.”
The test field is limited to super athletes, uniformly tires with the Metzeler Sportec M-1. Kawasaki leaves his ZX-12R in the stable, Suzuki leaves the GSX-R 1300 Hayabusa. Endless power does not guarantee these power bikes a triumph on the racetrack. This has been shown in the past. The field of drivers is stronger than ever. In 1998, with the first Master Bike, it was almost family-like in comparison. Six test drivers were there at the time. Today, at the fifth edition, twelve testers from eleven nations throw themselves into the ring. Among them is the Swede, who is a three-time German Superbike champion. The long-serving master bike warriors, such as the Spaniard Fernando Christobál and Gegesch Lindner, are correspondingly suspicious.
“How fast is he now?” Asks Gegesch again. “He has just driven a low 1.50 in the R6,” someone whispers to him. “Heilandzack,” says Gegesch, “he drives so fast on the first day. I don’t know how and where I should find the time. «The 1.90-meter-tall person looks a little disconcerted, to put it in a friendly way. In the last few years he had very quick representatives with the MOTORRAD employees Markus Barth and Jurgen Fuchs. But they are prevented this year. Gegesch has to do it yourself. And tomorrow two guys with GP experience are supposed to arrive. Toshi Arakai from Japan and Barry Veneman from the Netherlands. Anything else but no nasal drills. Gegesch swells evil. It doesn’t matter that this year the six fastest testers will finish the final instead of the top three as before. What should they think in Stuttgart if the MOTORRAD man would be the last to reach the final? Nothing worse than that.
It’s just as well that this time there is enough time to get used to the track in Almeria. In order to be prepared for bad weather and the time-consuming photo and video productions that are pending, Motociclismo has set five days for the master bike this year. The first two days ripple almost comfortably. Mandatory performance and noise measurements of all motorcycles are intended to prevent doping, better safe than sorry. Photo and video shoots are also on the program. Motociclismo sells tens of thousands of master bike videos every year. Accordingly, the effort is enormous: a whole staff of cameramen, sound engineers and editors want to meticulously implement a thick script. What doesn’t stop the driver from indulging in the elementary things in life: stepping on the gas. And get to know the route.
It has it all (see box on page 22). Good for those who have friends. Our MOTORCYCLE man has one. On the second day there is practically only a double pack. On and off the track, Gegesch and Fernando, buddies since time immemorial and teammates from past days of the Endurance World Championship, form a congenial duo. The “twins” roast wheel to wheel for laps around the tricky course. Sometimes Fernando shows the line, sometimes Gegesch stands out. Arriving in the pits, the two immediately put their heads together, drive through the most difficult passages with vigorous gestures in their minds, and work on the set-up of the motorcycles with their colleagues. With success. The lap times tumble, the 1.50 mark falls easily. “I understand the tire better now, I have a feeling for the limit area of ​​the Metzeler Sportec M-1, I accelerate earlier. There is still air, «says Gegesch ?? and now seems visibly more relaxed. The day of the decision in the Supersport class can come.
Already in the early morning you can feel the tension in everyone, the tighter schedule urges you to hurry. Twelve drivers take turns on five motorcycles on the hunt for best times. Pepe, the strict Spanish master of ceremonies, does not tolerate any delay. “All riders on their bikes, please,” he gives the signal in a friendly but firm manner. Six rounds are available to everyone. Two to retract, followed by a short pit stop. There is only a tiny moment left, for example to adjust the brake lever. Not more. Changing the suspension set-up set the day before is a sacrilege.
Then the following applies: The drivers rush out onto the track every ten seconds, only three flying laps to get the most out of themselves and the motorcycle. What about the Yamaha YZF-R6 works better. Originally, the homologated tire sizes were mounted on all machines. But with the standard 120/60 front tire, the 600 series ended with unofficial 1.49.00 minutes of fun. Christer Lindholm was surprised at the lack of grip on the front wheel. The Yamaha people gave in and decided to switch to a tire with a 70s cross-section. It offers more self-damping and thus safety for the driver when braking hard into corners. Kawasaki followed suit and also switched from 120/65 to 120/70 on the ZX-6R. This means that all twelve bikes are starting with identical front tires.
Suspiciously many people are now squirming around the pit wall, the onlookers briefly form a ball after each turn, from which a babylonian confusion of language can be heard. It’s almost like being in a bazaar: “Swap Lindholm for Christóbal, did you have the fast Dutchman on your clock?” The 600s from Yamaha and Suzuki are said to be head-to-head, Christer is said to have stayed below 1.47 with the R6. Old Swede, he hasn’t forgotten anything.
The next day, too, he played a hell of a lot of poker. The superbikes and the open class are on the program. Christer, an avowed chewing tobacco fan, fights with all tricks, likes to take off the accelerator a little earlier at the end of his first flying lap in order to turn onto the start-finish straight with a lot of momentum. Does it help? The unofficial pit radio reports a tough fight between Christer and Fernando, the Suzuki GSX-R 750 is said to have driven everything into the ground with a low 1.45, even her potent sister from the Open Class. But nobody knows exactly.
For four endlessly long days, this little world in Almeria revolves around just one topic: lap times. Until Thursday evening, shortly before six. No mirage in the Sierra Nevada: In the dreary paddock an oasis is created for a short time, the united master bike convoy gathers in an air-conditioned tent with finely laid tables, a delicious paella awaits. The tension of the last four days is giving way? at least for a brief moment. Augusto, boss of Motociclismo, enters the tent with a meaningful expression. A note in hand? the highly official lap times. It is as quiet as a mouse.
In the Supersport class, it’s all about it. Two eternally young men, both around 30, fought an enthusiastic race that Christer can win by a hair’s breadth. Six out of twelve drivers burned with the Suzuki GSX-R 600 their personal best in the asphalt, but in the end Gegesch and the Suzuki are missing a measly 0.366 seconds on Christers best time with the Yamaha YZF-R6. And this trump card stands out. The first finalist has been determined. Respectful applause, pats on the back.
Then a little sensation. The Suzuki GSX-R 750 returns the favor for many disgraceful defeats in the Superbike World Championship. She gives the more than twice as expensive Ducati 998 R powerful a. Nine out of twelve testers did their fastest lap with the Suzuki, Fernando set a high 1.45 as the best time. Shortly afterwards, the head of the Suzuki delegation suppressed a few tears of joy. The 1000 GSX-R also made it into the finals with ease. “Own the racetrack” ?? not a hollow advertising slogan, but reality. For the other manufacturers, however, a bitter one.
Day five, finale. Christer is contrite. “For me the air is outside, damn hard to concentrate 100 percent again.” He knows what he’s talking about, after all, he has set eight personal bests in the past two days. “It’s damn dangerous to slam such times with a standard motorcycle and road tires.” Fernando ignores the risk. He must. For Spain and for honor. Perhaps a missed date will also inspire him. Actually, he wanted to go a little around the houses with his “twin” Gegesch on the eve of the finale. But his loyal colleagues knew how to prevent this. Fernando just couldn’t get a car to pick up the buddy, who is staying in a hotel 60 kilometers away. Far away from any cell phone network, the Spaniard was sadly stuck in his hotel room.
Fernando drives into the final with a lot of anger in his stomach and pulls the gas as if it were for his life. Neither Christer nor Gegesch want or can oppose it. Fernando undercuts the official lap record, achieved in a national championship run in the Supersport 600 class, by more than 2.5 seconds. He burns the best time with the Suzuki GSX-R 750: 1.45.210 minutes ?? with a production motorcycle, without extremely expensive spring elements, without a chassis specially designed for it. Not driven on super-soft slicks, but with normal street tires that can be bought from any dealer. Which means another winner of the Master Bike 2002 is certain? the Metzeler Sportec M-1 (see also box on page 23). Respect. This is also due to the fact that the twelve testers managed the feat of giving everything for four days ?? and sometimes a little more, 1495 timed laps. And nobody lay down. Until next year. See you. To the Master Bike 2003 in Jerez de la Frontera.

Ducati 748 R 1.47.88

It is not the best feeling to be chased onto the slopes early in the morning and immediately scrape at the limit. Especially not with a Ducati 748 R. Because it is the only machine in the Supersport class that takes getting used to. The extreme, bent forward seating position, the stiff, rather unwieldy chassis and, last but not least, the engine, which, as the only two-cylinder in the field, behaves differently than the competition in every respect. Accelerate earlier, pull through the long radii at significantly more speed and, above all, shift up in good time. The changeover from the high-revving four-cylinder engines is enormous, but to the astonishment of everyone involved, it works without any problems within the two warm-up and three timed laps. The 748 R impresses with sensational cornering speed, the best chassis in the field and almost perfect brakes. It just lacks a shorter overall gear ratio and a bit of revving to bridge the intermediate sprints between the curve combinations more quickly.

Honda CBR 600 FS 1.47.71

Get off the capricious Ducati, get on the Honda – a feeling like “coming home”. The seating position is almost as relaxed, all levers and switches are in the right place, the brake and clutch are perfect and easy to adjust, and a comfortably tuned chassis with playful handling makes things child’s play. Admittedly, this connection is sufficient for astonishingly fast times, but for the very fast times it takes a little more. Namely more stability in terms of chassis, more power in the middle speed range ?? but above all more freedom from lean angles. Because the low-mounted pegs and sometimes even the exhaust silencer drag rudely across the grippy asphalt. This not only brings further unrest to the already nervous chassis in the drawn-out bends, but also does not encourage even faster and harder knocking down in the tricky chicanes.

Kawasaki ZX-6R 1.48.22

The green Kawasaki disappoints. Or rather, the lap times are disappointing. The ZX-6R even competes with a displacement advantage of 36 cubic centimeters. But it is of no use, because rarely has a bike harmonized so badly with a route as the ZX-6R did with Almeria. Almost nowhere do the gears fit, you always have to shift up or down because of a few meters. Only one tooth more or less in the secondary gear ratio and …. But that is against the rule, and a smooth, smooth driving style is hardly possible. In addition, there is this incredibly snappy front wheel brake, which is very difficult to dose in an inclined position. And it is precisely in these passages that a lot of time can be made up here in Almeria.

Suzuki GSX-R 600 1.47.17

The second best time in their class and six of the twelve pilots achieve their personal fastest lap on the GSX-R 600. The smallest Suzi can already imagine something on it. The key to success with the GSX-R lies in its sporty, tightly coordinated suspension components. With the right attitude, it comes very close to the queen of this discipline in terms of stability, the Ducati 748 R, approach. The rest is done by the speed-hungry four-cylinder, which grips solidly from medium speeds onwards, continues to cheer up to the highest notes and thus provides a pleasantly wide range of usable power for a 600cc drive. So emotionally the largest bike in the class has no translation problems of the kind that plague the Kawasaki.

Yamaha YZF-R6 1.46.80

1.46.80 ?? what the little Yamaha is burning on the asphalt is something that many big bikes will have to nibble on. Like the Ducati, the R6 is uncompromisingly calibrated for the racetrack. This does not only apply to the rather tightly damped spring elements. An extremely front-wheel-oriented seating position allows clear feedback about the limit area of ​​the front tire, especially when braking and bending. The operation of the transmission is still quite a brutal affair. If metal clashes loudly when downshifting, this is not for the sensitive. In return, the four-cylinder engine shines with a never-ending range of revs. There are often 15,000 rpm and more on the clock before the braking points, which elegantly prevents unrest caused by hectic gearshifting maneuvers.

Ducati 998 R 1.46.11

After the convincing chassis presentation of the 748 R, the expectations of the 998 R are high: brilliant chassis paired with the power of the Testastretta engine ?? a dream. But by no means. Although the power of the dull, rumbling V2 is completely fine, the way in which one of the rev limiters messes up the tour from 10500 rpm is unprecedented. The V2 switches off so suddenly that you hit the windshield with your helmet. The 998 also made a mistake in terms of chassis. Significantly more unwieldy than her little sister, she turns in and pushes over the front wheel to the outer edge of the curve. The expected high cornering speed is missing and early acceleration is not possible with this suspension setup. The suspicion arises that the Ducati men have made matters worse by raising the rear of the vehicle too far in connection with the steeply adjusted steering head.

Honda VTR 1000 SP-2 1.48.42

The best thing about the Honda SP-2, and everyone involved agrees, is its braking system. The toppings pack incredibly powerfully into the panes, you never really need more than one finger. There is also a unanimous opinion about the engine: Emotionally little power, but a fairly wide usable band are not the worst prerequisites for fast laps on this winding route. Those are mainly thwarted by the miserable fork. And even the specially flown in Japanese in chic Honda robes see themselves unable to solve the widely criticized problems by means of a vote. So the SP-2 bumps insensitively over the bumps, only steers stubbornly and can only be kept on a tight line with great difficulty.

Suzuki GSX-R 750 1.45.71

Applause. The 1.46 sound barrier has been broken. And a first serious contender for overall victory has shown its potential. The 750 presents itself as an excellent compromise between handling and performance. The neutral and sporty, stiff suspension provides good feedback. This enables the pilot to approach the tire limits very quickly. And he can make optimal use of the performance of these “road tires” even in the acceleration phase without overwhelming them with the slightest bit of throttle. The GSX-R not only catapults itself out of the corners as fast as an arrow, its aggressive four-cylinder also drives it at top speed through the light barrier at the end of the 900-meter-long back straight.

Honda Fireblade 1.46.33

The remark is made: the best brakes in the world. Indeed, what this braking system is capable of doing requires a separate homage. Bravo. However, the fork of the Fireblade is not always able to cope with the demands that arise from it, the front wheel acknowledges it with approaches to brake stamping. The fact that the Honda is the leader in terms of handling unfortunately does not help with slight inaccuracies when turning or in full lean angle. In contrast, the blade’s motor is almost perfect. Great gearbox, smooth but powerful throttle response and robust thrust up to the highest speeds leave little to be desired. Only when fully accelerating over the treacherous peaks to be taken in third and fourth gear would a little more front wheel load be an advantage. This would calm down the nervous front end and eliminate the problems when turning due to better traction on the front wheel.

Kawasaki ZX-9R 1.47.58

K for Kawasaki or Compromise. This means that not much can be achieved on the racetrack, and especially on a technically demanding one like Almeria. As with the 636, the brakes are extremely snappy, but the fork offers too little progression for brutal braking maneuvers. The engine convinces with sufficient peak power, can also be dosed quite sensitively in the middle range, but is annoying due to an extremely hard throttle response. In addition, there is a moderately sporty seating position and the high weight of the 9er, which cuts a comparatively sluggish figure with the rapid changes in lean angle in the chicanes. Once in an inclined position, however, we like the ease with which subsequent course corrections can be carried out.

Suzuki GSX-R 1000

The Master Bike 2001 prevailed in the open class again this year – with a clear lead. The bets were clearly against the big bike with the brutal power. But the Suzuki duped the field not only with breathtaking values ​​in the light barrier, but also with its performance in the predominantly winding part of the route. Despite the somewhat more stubborn behavior in an inclined position, you always feel you are in control of the situation. The 1000 series makes it possible to circle through the radii of the slightly overwhelmed tires at medium speeds at the slip limit of the slightly overwhelmed tires and, thanks to the enormous power of the engine, to hurry through most of the tricky passages in one gear. The only drawback: The brake system shows fading, the lever moves suspiciously towards the handle.

Yamaha YZF-R1 1.46.47

The top speed measurements of the light barrier are sobering. The new R1 can’t even set itself apart from a GSX-R 750. At the same time, the Yamaha has a pleasantly smooth, yet extremely powerful start in the middle speed range and also makes an extremely powerful impression on the short sprints between the chicanes. However, the noises from the gearbox are also incredibly powerful when the individual gear steps crash into their locks precisely but mechanically loudly. The fact that the R1 receives a clear defeat against the Suzuki in the end is due to the poor top speed and the lower rear wheel grip when accelerating in full banking. And the Honda Fireblade slips past quite unspectacularly thanks to its dream brake.

Toshiyuki Arakaki

The “Little Big Man” from Japan, 37, test editor of Big Machine, drove the 500cc GP from 1992 to 1996, and has a rabid driving style. For the first time, in the final. respect.

Don Canet

Fast US-Boy, 40 years young, test editor of Cycle World, many years in the American Superbike class, accelerates today in the US Super Moto Championship

Laurent Cochet

French cheerful nature, talented languages, test boss and deputy editor-in-chief of Moto Journal, never actively intervened in the racing business, but the 34-year-old is still turning the beater

Claudio Corsetti

Head of Test at Moto Sprint, Italy. Presented himself fit like never before at the Masterbike 2002, has lost at least eight kilograms, which inspires the 37-year-old to do fast laps

Fernando Cristóbal

Grand Prix and endurance world championship warhorse from Spain, tender 31, test driver of Motociclismo. Fastest man in Almeria. Otherwise only has one thing in mind: fun. Party on, Fernandetti!

Markus Lehner

Slow Swiss? The two-stroke freak Lehner, 42, test editor of Toff und Motorsport Aktuell, was involved in the Swiss championship for a few years? and proves otherwise.

Christer Lindholm

Forever young Swede, age 30 plus, for bikes at the start, three-time German Superbike champion, currently races in the Swedish Supersport Championship ?? and is still extremely fast

Gerhard Lindner

Test boss MOTORRAD, 1992 German champion in the Supersport 600 class. At that time he was 29th. And has lost none of its speed. Grand finale, hats off, Gegesch

Alberto Pires

The 38-year-old, test editor of the Portuguese edition of Motociclismo, is a regular at Master Bike. Otherwise he hangs around on racetracks »just for fun ??

Jorg Schuller

Jorg, head of testing at PS ?? The sports motorcycle magazine, 35 years old, intimate Nordschleife connoisseur, avowed long-distance freak. First master bike for the Eifelaner, great debut.

Barry Veneman

Multilingual Dutchman, trendsetter (see hat), 25 years young, freelancer at Kicxstart, full-time in the European Supersport Championship, first start at the Master Bike

Ken Wootton

Oldie, but Goldie. The 48-year-old, editor of Australian Motocycles News, raced with Messrs Doohan and Gardner in the Australian Superbike Championship in the 1980s

Conclusion Supersport

In no other class is the power density as great as here. Just 1.4 seconds separate the class leader and long-standing serial winner, the Yamaha R6, from the taillight, the Kawasaki ZX-6R. It’s hard to talk about winners or losers. What is much more important in this class is that, despite the very different concepts, all competitors reach a surprisingly high level. In addition to the uncompromising designs from Yamaha and Ducati, even such a comfort-oriented concept as that of the Honda CBR 600 is brilliant. Because with a little more ground clearance, you could still find one or the other tenth of a second with it. If you want to overtake the very racing-oriented speedsters from Yamaha or Suzuki, however, you will need a little more than just higher footrests in the future.

Conclusion superbike

It’s gotten thin in the once highly competitive Superbike class. Only three serious opponents are fighting for a place in the final. And that with quite different means. So entertainment is provided. The noble Ducati, which is more than twice as expensive, competes against a mass-produced product that is already starting its third season completely unchanged? and loses. With the new edition of its two-cylinder racer, the SP-2, Honda tries in vain to at least catch up with the competition and, despite Japanese Honda technicians on site, is even slower than the entire Supersport class. Suzuki’s GSX-R 750 proves how well a superbike can work on this technically very demanding and very narrow track with the absolute best time in the preliminary round. 1.45.71 min. ?? All attention!

Conclusion open class

Suzuki also dominates the big class. And that very clearly. By far the highest top speed, fastest lap and the best rating from all twelve test drivers leave no doubt as to the strengths of this concept. And on a route that offers few opportunities to fully exploit the true performance potential of this four-cylinder. On the other hand, in Almeria it becomes clear that the unbelievable performance of these cars in the open class is not offered in a brutal and uncontrolled manner, but rather easily controllable. Long power slides at the exit of a curve are very easy to control for experts. The wide range of revs that can be used also makes things easier, as significantly fewer gear changes are necessary, which ensures more peace and quiet and better machine control, especially for drivers with no racing experience.

Race track / tires

Almeria, a course that offers plenty of short time ( The pilot is only allowed to take a breather on the 900 meter long straight. The rest requires hard work and a high level of concentration and precision. The technically very demanding race course is riddled with meanness. For example, two absolutely blind right-hand curves, each of which leads over a hilltop at high speed. Once you can accelerate hard, once you have to decelerate in full tilt. Then a very tight chicane, which has to be turned fully on the brakes, and the endlessly long left-hand bend in the first third of the route, which allows sensational lean angles, and in the course of which you can feel your way to the maximum grip of the tires – although the Metzeler used this time Sportec M-1 tires caused a lot of astonishment. After an initial phase of getting used to it, all the drivers were enthusiastic about the stability, grip and, above all, the still immensely wide and good-natured border area of ​​the Munich rubber. There are four sets of sports tires up for grabs, all of which are beautifully approached and signed by the fastest master bikers, Mr. Lindholm, Mr. Cristóbal and Mr. Lindner. Simply write to: MOTORRAD, password: Master Bike, Leuschnerstrabe 1, 70174 Stuttgart.

Ducati 748 R (Master Bike-VT)

The race-crazy guys from Motociclismo rode the Master Bike for the first time in 1998. Since then, the then very familiar and manageable event has grown into the largest sports motorcycle comparison in the world. In 1998 only six testers and motorcycle magazines took part, in 2002 twelve magazines from eleven countries competed in friendly competition for lap times. The unofficial price for the longest journey goes without a doubt to Ken Wootton from Australia. But Don Canet (USA) and Toshi Arakaki (Japan) also did a lot for their “Miles and More” account. The effort made by the Bavarian-Italian tire manufacturer Metzeler is also gigantic. The Munich-based company brought 350 tires and fitted a total of 156 Sportec M-1s to the Master Bike. Over four days, the testers burned around 1500 liters of super gasoline, donated by Elf. Almost 100 hardworking people who contribute to the success of this mega event in front of and behind the scenes, consumed over 800 sandwiches and around 700 liters of soft drinks ?? and a giant paella pan.

1st place Supersport – Yamaha YZF-R6

Aggressive seating position, stable chassis with sufficient reserve and a powerful, speed-hungry engine: a worthy winner

1st place Superbike – Suzuki GSX-R 750

Because of old iron. The Suzuki proves once again that it has rightly earned nothing but praise in recent years. The price-performance hit.

1st place open class – Suzuki GSX-R 1000

Suzuki, the second. The 1000 series clearly shows where the hammer hangs in terms of performance and not only pulls away from the competition on the straight.

Overall winner – Suzuki GSX-R 750

Would the GSX-R 750 have won on a faster Grand Prix course? Who knows. But here in Almeria, on this technically extremely demanding slope, it is the best compromise between performance and handling. She deserves unreserved praise and the title: Master Bike 2002. Bravo Suzuki.

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