Race One – the superbike vs the super cruiser
On paper, the Yamaha R1 has the Ducati Diavel beat – it claims 20bhp more peak power and 33kg less weight. But a closer study of the spec sheets picks out the Diavel’s insanely wide 240-section rear tyre and a 17.5cm longer wheelbase. The superbike versus super-cruiser argument isn’t the whitewash you might think when you roll up at the lights next to an open face lid-wearing poser. As befits the office stereotypes, John’s the poser in this case and I’m playing the part of the sports biker who’s about to get suckered. After a few warm up starts and some gratuitous burnouts we’re lined up and ready to go. Despite the race counting for nothing more than bragging rights, my heart’s thumping and I haven’t blinked for so long that my eyes sting. If I can get a smooth start, the R1’s power and weight advantage should hold out, but one mistake and I’ll suffer the indignity of being trounced by a cruiser ridden by my boss. The flag drops, the Diavel goes sideways and the R1 goes upwards, neither bike showing any intention of getting to the other end of the runway without a fight. OK, so we both crumbled under the pressure, nil-nil, try again. Second time round, things are slightly more in control with the Diavel’s tyre warmed and hooking up into the tarmac. The longer wheelbase and big tyre on the Ducati see it sneak ahead of the R1 for the first two hundred metres. Just when I think I’m going to get beaten by the fat-tyred freak, the R1 comes into its stride and edges back past as we get to the 90mph mark. At the ¼ mile finishing post, the R1’s point three of a second ahead and retains its dignity, not without breaking a sweat though. One final race and the Diavel charges forward as the R1 shoots skyward again, I hold the wheelie down the strip and pretend it was deliberate. I fool nobody. You can beat the Ducati on the Yam, but you’ve gotta be right on your clutch game to do it.
Race two – the race bike vs the hypertourer
Sat on a Kawasaki ZX-10R superstock race bike that’s dripping in carbon fibre and fancy parts, it’s hard to believe there’s even a point in racing the behemoth that is the ZZR1400. With gearing good for 170mph, slick tyres and a huge 89kg weight advantage, what possible hope could the ZZR have? I could stick a pillion on the 10R and still have a weight advantage. Oh, did I mention the race bike has a quickshifter too, so I’ll be wasting no time at all changing gear? In the interests of completeness, we lined the two Kawasakis up, looking like little and large on the start line. Of course the ZX-10R would win, the 1400 would put in a valiant effort and that would be that.
As I watch the letters Z, Z, R and 1400 creep past in the corner of my eye, it’s hard to fathom what’s going on. A 270kg green blob is actually getting ahead of a super-pimp ZX-10R race bike in a straight line race, what the hell’s up with that? It was like jumping onto a bouncy castle only to find it was filled with concrete – surprising and painful in equal measure. The ZZR is faster down the ¼ mile than the Diavel, the R1 and the ZX-10 racer. I don’t think it knows how much it weighs, that can be the only explanation. Obviously the long wheelbase helps, but it’s that 200bhp, 1441cc motor with its 50Nm torque advantage that really wins out. If you see one of these at a set of traffic lights, DO NOT RACE IT. You will lose, you will be embarrassed, you have been warned. Unless, of course, you have a turbocharged drag bike…
Race three – the dirt bike vs the sports bike
If we thought the R1 and the ZX-10R were hard to get off the line, that’s because we hadn’t tried a racing start on the KTM yet. With a super-low weight, punchy, instant power and an impossibly high centre of gravity, the only thing stopping the 510cc monster from backflipping was the knobbly tyre. Dirt bike tyres are designed to cut into the ground, digging in to find themselves grip and, preferably, covering everyone behind in mud at the same time. When presented with something they can’t cut into, like concrete, they tend to spin wildly out of control. The thought of sudden loss of grip on throttle or brakes is not a comforting one at 90mph, so we spent as much time as possible on the grass where the orange thing belonged. With the KTM running out of gearing at 94mph (you don’t really feel the need to go much faster than that in the woods), it was a given that the R1 would beat it to the ¼ mile mark. But with the EXC’s weight advantage, Physics says it should be able to nudge ahead in the very early stages of the race. After nearly flipping it half a dozen times, I managed to find a combination of clutch, revs and body position that didn’t try and put me in hospital. Lined up next to the R1, I launch the 500 and take the lead. For a metre. Maybe two metres, but after that the R1 is off into the distance. The dirt bike may feel ridiculously fast, but in front of opposition like this, sub-60bhp power outputs just aren’t enough. Lined up again, I try a different tactic, switching to the grass to put the KTM in its natural habitat. Bizarrely, the KTM is only fractionally slower off the line on the dirt than it is on tarmac. The weight sits high up, so you can still get that perfect, front wheel-hovering launch. Best of all, if you jump the start a little you can fill in the sports bike, flinging mud all over it and taking the win while Mr. R1 is sobbing about lumps of turf in his ram air. Remember: if you can’t be first, cheat until you can.
Tune in tomorrow to see how the drag bike got on…
Words: Chris Northover
Pics: Phil Steinhardt