Unfortunately for the sportbike enthusiasts of the world, there isn’t a location on state highways or even backroads where a superbike can be opened up and its limits be put to the test without fear of major repercussions. Guard rails, moving vehicles, gravel and deep ravines can be major obstacles for the most ardent and experienced riders.
The majority of riders will never sniff the superbike playground that is a race track. But if you really want to understand the performance capabilities of a modern superbike, a track is the only place where you can experience triple-digit speeds without fear of a stint in the klink.
In the first portion of our 2004 V-Twin shootout, the financially-friendly Honda pulled off the upset when it used its street manners, real world amenities, and an impressive powerplant to earn top honors. However, the characteristics that turned us off to the Ducati 999S and Aprilia Mille Factory on the street may be the very reasons they sprint ahead of the RC51 on the track. For a detailed and in-depth look at this trio, glean the street test.
The street portion of our V-Twin shootout left the Mille Factory and Ducati 999S on the outside looking in. For the Mille, the biggest gripe we had concerned the rear brake or lack thereof. A suspiciously non-functioning rear binder pushed Aprilia’s sweet superbike back to third place, which is a shame considering many of our testers were enamored with the Mille’s aggressive disposition.
The 999S was even more awkward on the street than the Mille Factory; kind of like driving Michael Schumacher’s F1 Ferrari to Safeway for groceries. Gobs of power and confidence-inspiring mid-corner stability are the highlights of Ducati’s superbike, and it was clear that despite losing out to the RC51 on the street, the Duc was a good bet to dominate the track.
There are plenty of great road courses on the west coast, one of which is the phenomenal Thunderhill Raceway. Situated in the sun-baked hills of central California, the 3.0-mile circuit offers up an excellent layout to test the low-end grunt of a V-Twin. With a host of long sweepers, quick chicanes, and two long straights, Thunderhill Raceway is a track grommit’s Utopia.
For two days we rode an endless number of sessions, snacked on tasty meals, and gained valuable track knowledge from the informative Pacific Track Time staff. Thanks, guys!
Our two-day test session was further enhanced thanks to the dynamic duo of Shawn Roberti and Mike Mitchell, who share a collective 17 OMRA/WRMA club championships and five Oregon State roadracing championships to their credit. With the capable and loquacious contributions of this duo rounding out our usual MotorcycleUSA test team, we were set to get down to business.