Master Bike 2000 (part 1)
High pressure zone
When the assembled athletes’ elite approaches on a broad front, there is only one thing that matters every year: working hard on deep lap times with the Master Bike.
The worldview of meteorologists is as simple as it is digital: there is nothing between high and low except the fact that the former is mostly over the Azores and the latter always comes from the British Isles. The worldview of racing drivers, on the other hand, is much more complex: between 1.55 min high and 1.55 min deep are worlds and a finely graded range of causes. For this very reason, the team of full-throttle knights meets once a year for the stoker symposium to get to the bottom of the capabilities of the current generation of athletes.
What more suitable location for this spectacle than Jerez de la Frontera. The Grand Prix circuit in sunny Andalusia not only enjoys the above-mentioned high, but also fascinates the drivers with its smooth course and the many fast corners that demand everything from the test field between 600 and 1300 cm³ displacement in terms of engine and chassis.
So it’s about lap times, pure racetrack performance. So it is no longer than fair and fair to divide the field into classes like the international sports authorities: Supersport, Superbike and the cars of the open class. In addition, the Aprilia RSV mille R and the sinfully expensive Ducati 996 SPS as a reference. The two should show what is possible. And because everything is four-stroke here, we’re also adopting the Superbike World Championship regulations and starting in two races. The first with the superbikes and the high-powered cars here and now, the second (Supersport and reference class) in the next issue. And then there is also the final of the class winners, because there has to be tension.
With so much sporting sovereignty, underlined by the top-class, nine-person test driver field from five nations, the down-to-earth customs of German shooting festivals should not be missing: The opening dance is due to the Yamaha YZF-R1 because it shot down the bird last year and on the circuit from Barcelona set the fastest time. The other starting order is: Honda CBR 900 RR, Kawasaki ZX-9R and ZX-12R as well as the Suzuki Hayabusa. The mood is still relaxed. But only because the Michelin Pilot Sport, which is mandatory for all motorcycles this time, has to be warmed up in the first two laps. To the surprise of MOTORRAD, the Spanish Michelin men, apart from a few 190 tires for the ZX-12R and the Hayabusa, only have rear tires in 180 format in the truck (see tire box on page 20). A circumstance to which the machines with six-inch rims were supposed to react quite differently in the course of this test, but which could not be changed in the short time that it took.
Goal then: three timed rounds, full cannon ?? just everything that goes. The R1 does a lot of work. Shows that she has not lost any of her fitness in the last year, shoots out of the pit lane with the front wheel on the first sharp right. A delight, this engine that marches above all in the medium speed range as if there was no tomorrow. Strong, super strong. Or too strong? Dealing with the concentrated power in connection with the low weight is not that easy, even for professionals. Because the R1 behaves fidgety when you apply the gas from the corners, the front gets restless, while the pilot Sport on the rear wheel emphatically draws attention to his limit of grip. A tightrope walk that needs to be mastered and which takes time to get used to.
But if you can deal with this quirk, the R1 literally crashes around the course. The Yamaha spoils you with fine brakes and especially in the fast left turns before and after the back straight ?? and it is precisely in these passages that you can get a lot of time in Jerez ?? with their stable chassis. An impressive performance of 1.56.7 minutes. And that, although on this fast course the reserves of the shock absorber could be higher. In return, the R1 on the southern Spanish race track benefits from the fact that no chicanes and changing curves punish its not exactly feather-light handling.
The power of the Yamaha is not hidden in the light barrier measurement at the end of the back straight. The display shows 227 km / h. Damn fast, but in the end we are in the top performance class. And, as expected, the top speed highlights are set by others. 231 km / h ZX-12R, 231 km / h Hayabusa! And that, although the two fat men turn onto the back straight with lower cornering speed. Anyone who watches how the two cars catapult themselves onto every short stretch of the straight will be scared of the brave full-throttle knights. Fortunately in vain, because even racing drivers almost paralyze their right hand when there are explosions in performance of this magnitude. "If you just look at the gas, it will turn you around," comments Markus, after all Germany’s current supersport champion and MOTORCYCLE tester, about the Hayabusa, while "Gegesch" Lindner indulges in truly diabolical images of the ZX-12R. "It goes like hell."
That much power has to be slowed down at the latest before the next corner. And so much weight too. Round 250 kilos, both over there and over, combined with the high speed, let the riders drop anchor on the few straights much earlier than on all other bikes. It’s good that both have effective stoppers. The Kawa anyway, the Hayabusa at least this time, after the last test machine almost refused to work in this regard. Nonetheless, the advantage of the ZX-12R is that it is helped by the generally tighter suspension elements, their significantly greater ground clearance and, above all, the 190 instead of the big 200, which significantly improves handling, which is very sluggish in civilian trim. So the gray thunder bolt drives the hunting falcon a little bit away, whose freedom of inclination is restricted to the left by the housing cover that is put on.
Under the devotedly fighting Markus it is enough for both thick ships to survive against Fireblade and ZX-9R. Gegesch, on the other hand, does not like to make friends with so much mass, he drives the faster laps with the two 900s. However, the difference is surprisingly small. And that, although both pilots ascribe the clearly better racetrack characteristics to the CBR 900 and the ZX-9R. All in all. But there are still quirks. No, not the fork flutter of the green, which is blue here. Due to the replacement of the brake pads initiated by Kawasaki Germany, the stoppers no longer react so bitingly, the fluttering can only be felt in minimal, harmless beginnings. But unlike Yamaha’s R1, the 180 pilot Sport does not really want to harmonize with the six-inch rim of the ZX-9R, and does not bring the vulminant performance to the asphalt, especially since the Kawa engine responds very roughly when applying the gas . The 180 works much better on the Fireblade, but it fights with a fork that is too soft, which is forced to block by the excellent stoppers in the braking zones. And with the front wheel stamping, both pilots cannot turn in exactly.
The bottom line is that the R1 will make it into the final undisputed. 1.56.75 minutes, fastest time, that’s that. Light, strong, fast: who should top it? The 600s are probably no danger. And the superbikes? Okay, recently on the angular Calafat course, Suzuki’s new GSX-R 750 outperformed the thousands. And the two-cylinder, now all of them World Cup experience, battle-tested? There is tension in the pits, bets are accepted, and many are betting on the Ducati 996 Biposto. Their almost proverbial stubbornness should be decisive on this course. So it applies. In the pit lane the dull thud of the united V2 community dominates, even if the GSX-R holds up with a hoarse bark. Markus rolls out with the 996 Biposto ?? and returns with a big grin. "That’s it!"
What is meant is the excellent racing ergonomics of the Reds and above all the chassis of the Ducati. Simply full, simply brilliant. Stable, more stable, the most stable. An increase no longer seems possible. Jerez is made for what would be considered rigid on the country road. High spring rate, plenty of cushioning reserves, endless ground clearance. In connection with the classic tubular space system, these properties make the ultra-fast passages in Jerez their pitfalls, while the Italian’s well-known unwillingness to let herself be thrown from one corner to the other hardly matters here. So best time? Not quite. The R1 is four tenths missing with 1.57.12 minutes. On the one hand, this is due to the blunt brakes, which are neither convincing in terms of effectiveness nor controllability. On the other hand, the engine is exceptionally good in the drilling for 996 conditions, but of course it cannot keep up with the brute R1 quadruple. But it also drives in a completely different class.
The Aprilia RSV doesn’t thousand. And its 60-degree V2 is once again superior to the 90-degree counterpart in the Ducati. Not on the dyno role, but the Mille engine hangs on the gas more greedily, reacts promptly to every twitch, no matter how small, and also pushes significantly more powerfully in the medium speed range. The successful seating position and easy handling also make the drivers feel elated. On the other hand, the rear end causes irritation, and it does so in a lasting manner. And again it’s the unfortunate combination of the 180 Pilot Sport and a wide six-inch rim that doesn’t work on the Mille any more than it does on the ZX-9R. When accelerating out, the drivers usually struggle with a lack of grip and, in the fast passages, with a previously unknown and lively independent life of the rear end. The fact that the not exactly brilliant brakes force the sensitive fork to block doesn’t make things any easier. The Mille ends up clearly lagging behind its Italian competitor with 1.59.28 minutes. Ingrateful, but under these conditions it cannot be changed.
The next attempt is made by the new face in the superbike circus, the Honda VTR 1000 SP-1. Initially expected with high tension, then scolded, at least as far as the racetrack performance is concerned. When it comes to measuring performance on the test bench, the Japanese two-cylinder is superior to the Italian competition, so it’s not a bad starting point. But how does it look in practice? Enter the corridor and off you go. The VTR unfolds its power not spectacularly, but evenly. Exactly this characteristic turns out to be a hindrance in the hunt for fast lap times, because it does not provide the driver with any orientation about the current speed. A task that the digital tachometer does not adequately perform because it is difficult to read.
But this little mishap is not what prevents really fast lap times. Rather, the difficulties still lie in the chassis area, because the Honda cannot convince in terms of driving stability. Both the fork and the shock absorber are tuned far too softly for use on the racetrack, the VTR begins to lurch time and again. The considerable weight doesn’t make things any easier for the pilots either. In addition, the engine generates extremely little braking torque when downshifting, which means that the motorcycle unintentionally pushes far into the curve and has to be accelerated out again over a wide radius. So all in all, it’s not a convincing performance, although the brakes and ergonomics are okay. At 1.59.23 minutes, the SP-1 levels off at Mille level, but can never endanger the Ducati.
But now it’s all over again. The outsider competes. Four-cylinder versus V2, 750 cubic centimeters versus around 1000. The superbike par excellence, even if the balance of power in this class has shifted over the years. Nevertheless, bets are accepted, because the GSX-R 750 is traded as an insider tip for overall victory after the first convincing performance by not a few here on the course. Confidently, the 750 barks out loud about its regained will to win ?? after all, an entire class has to be rehabilitated. And get started. Push forward so that the beams bend. Already has a lot of power in the middle speed range and keeps turning, further, further. Not with the brutal force of an R1, but always finely controllable. This engine embodies racing spirit at it’s best. In combination with the buttery smooth and precisely shiftable gearbox, a delight.
This leaves the pilots plenty of time to concentrate on the course. And the subtleties that the chassis has in store. For example, perfect brakes in terms of effectiveness and controllability. Or a nicely appealing fork that always has enough cushioning reserves and allows Suzi to turn exactly on the targeted line. Or the equally perfect seating position that makes handling the lightweight child’s play. So no criticism? Yes, but only in the beginning. The shock absorber is a little underdamped, notice Markus and Gegesch, but otherwise ?? Perfect.
No lap time has improved because of the crush, and the Ducati was really not bad. Nevertheless, both of them type: "The GSX-R makes the race in this class. "The only thing missing is confirmation from the timekeeping. A little later, it is actually just as impressive as the performance on the course. With 1.56.66 minutes, the GSX-R 750 pulverizes the time of the 996 Biposto by almost half a second ?? and dominates her class with ease. This victory is even more brilliant because all nine drivers, without exception, set their fastest times on the Suzuki. Something like that is called success across the board.
Othe better partial success. Because two classes are still outstanding. And of course the finals for the best in class. But as I said, that’s a different story? in the next issue.
Not quite as fast as Barcelona, not quite as tricky as Calafat ?? this time the third edition of the Master Bike took place on the 4.42-kilometer Grand Prix circuit in Jerez. The many fast corners require torsion-resistant chassis and a tight coordination of the suspension elements. Also in demand are powerful braking systems and motors that are less brilliant with top performance, but rather allow early and controlled acceleration in the very long curve radii with a wide speed range. What is missing in Jerez is a tight chicane, which would reveal weaknesses in handling and punish with a few extra tenths. If you want to be really fast here, you have to use the flat curbs to help.
On the racetrack, the tires clearly determine the good and bad times. In the Master Bike 2000, all motorcycles ran on Michelin Pilot Sport. In order to create identical conditions for all pilots, the rubber was changed after three laps of five laps each. That gives exactly 204 tires or 102 sets that the Michelin men had to put on and take off. Small mishaps are inevitable. The biggest one happened right at the beginning. Michelin Spain only had 190 cc rear tires in stock for ZX-12R and Hayabusa. The two Aprilia and Honda, the ZX-9R and the R1, like the rest of the competitors, had to use a 180 and reacted quite differently to the narrow format.
Conclusion: open class
Performance, performance, performance. The subject in the open class. Or maybe not, because everyone here has more than enough anyway. Too much for the racetrack. This is shown by ZX-12R and Hayabusa, who draw such grim lines on the grippy Jerez asphalt at every corner exit that even the top pilots gathered here handle the throttle with respect. The real difficulty with these bolides lies elsewhere. It’s the extra pounds for this terrain. When braking, when turning? In fact, whenever things aren’t going straight ahead, the other three don’t have to deal with these problems. CBR, ZX-9R and R1 are among the top athletes on the scene. Light and strong, strong and fast. Yamaha’s R1 can best convert this successful combination into fast lap times. Even if she lacks the playful handling of the Honda and Kawasaki a little, here in Jerez this small blemish is hardly significant due to the lack of chicanery.
Upside down world in the Superbike class: Everyone expects the V2 overhammer from Honda after full announcements, and the 750 renaissance comes in the form of the completely redesigned GSX-R. Suzuki has actually succeeded in revitalizing the spirit of the ancestor of all superbikes. The GSX-R heats up its class competitors with a wide range of performance, low weight and, above all, the way in which it brings this combination onto the road. But the Ducati holds up against it. The V2 in the sturdy tubular structure, consistently developed for the racetrack, is far from being old. And the Aprilia has a lot of potential that it couldn’t exploit with the 180 Pilot Sport. And the Honda? A good country motorcycle, without question. For fast times on the racetrack, however, the SP-1 has to be completely turned inside out. A task that is better left to the specialists at the Superbike World Championship.
Can the Yamaha R1 repeat last year’s success? Do you spit the Suzuki GSX-R 750 in the soup? And how are the 600s and the reference class bikes doing? Answers in MOTORRAD 11/2000.
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