The contenders for Superbike Smackdown (from left to right): 2008 Honda CBR1000RR, 2008 Yamaha YZF-R1, 2008 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R, 2008 Suzuki GSX-R1000 and 2008 Ducati 1098.
We live in the golden age of sportbikes. It may not seem like it at the moment, but years from now, hopefully many decades – when oil is drying up and we’re all driving small cars we plug into power outlets – people will look back at our age with wonder.
Did thousands of people really ride 150-plus horsepower superbikes? Did manufacturers actually make production machines capable of a 135mph, 10-second quarter mile times? Could anyone, from pimpled High School juniors to wrinkled nursing home retirees, truly walk into a dealership and ride out on a machine capable of going faster than a jet airplane shot off an aircraft carrier?
The answer to all those questions is yes, because we do indeed live in this magnificent era. To that end, MotorcycleUSA gathered the five most ferocious sportbikes in existence for the fifth annual Superbike Smackdown.
Our contestants this year include the 1000cc staples from the Big Four: The three-time reigning Smackdown champion Suzuki GSX-R1000, the high-revving Yamaha R1 and the latest literbike efforts from Honda and Kawasaki. The redesigned Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R and Honda CBR1000RR both bring the heat to challenge the Gixxer Thou, but we also are pleased to report that the Ducati 1098, which eluded us in last year’s test, is also taking aim at the Gixxer in its Smackdown debut.
Evaluating this year’s crop of contenders, we dialed up our fastest friends. Multi-Time AFM Formula Pacific Championship contender and AMA Superbike privateer Michael Earnest is on board, along with Moto-ST rider Justin Filice, who happens to be the son of Motorcycle Hall of Fame rider Jimmy Filice. Our standby ringer and six-time OMRRA/two-time WMRRA Superbike Champion Shawn Roberti wasn’t about to miss this one either. These three joined the MCUSA editorial brain trust of Editorial Director Ken Hutchison and Associate Editor Adam Waheed, who’ve been chomping at the bit for our biggest test of the year like hyperactive howler monkeys on speed. Oh yeah, did we mention Hoobastank drummer and certified gearhead Chris Hesse wanted in on the fun too? We also topped off our packed roster with a top secret test rider, who we’ll refer to only as Sid. Why Sid? Because Stig was taken and why the hell not!
Our testing route included not one, not two, but four, count `em, four, days on the track. Twice we ran the Buttonwillow circuit in the reverse configuration, along with a day at Willow Springs and another at Pahrump, Nevada on both Spring Mountain Motorsports Park’s 1.5- and 2.2-mile tracks. We also took this year’s quintet out for a street ride or two just to push our luck even further.
The core testing facility for Superbike Smackdown V was Spring Mountain Motorsports Park in Pahrump, NV.
Forty-four race tires from Dunlop later – which you can check out in our accompanying Dunlop Sportmax D211GP product review – we were left to sort through the stats and scores. The notes of this year’s Smackdown author, Ken Hutchison, say it all: 1300 miles driving with the trailer, 17 days on the road, 12 Zantac, eight riders, five bikes, four tracks, three cities, two states, not enough clean underwear… It all comes down to one thing in the end – the winner of Superbike Smackdown V.
Special thanks to Hyperclub Track Day (Willow Springs) and Take It 2 The Track (Buttonwillow Day 2) for the track time. Also special appreciation to Michael Earnst for a) testing bikes for us and b) being generous with track time via his Pacific Track Time enterprise. More gratitude also is owed to Mr. Hesse, who not only loaned his riding skills, but signed off on the use of the Hoobastank tunes accompanying our Smackdown videos – so make sure to check them out! Other thanks go out to XT Racing for the Ultra-Lap timers and PowerStands for all-new bike stands – helping us fool everyone by looking like a semi-respectable outfit. One last thank you is in order to Area P, who were very generous by allowing us to hog their dyno for hp and torque figures. Thank you to everyone!