2010 Superbike Smackdown VII Track

Steve Atlas | May 7, 2010

Clash of the Titans

The arms race has resumed. Take the covers off the nukes; the battle for superbike superiority is back in full swing!

Over the past few years we haven’t seen any revolutionary gains in performance from the big-bore sportbike world. Things have remained relatively stagnant; be it due to emissions, noise regulations, or a lack of someone really setting a new benchmark, Honda has reigned supreme for two years running. And though others have found small gains here and there, no one has really dropped our jaw with big horsepower numbers or wowed us with totally new ideas – Yamaha’s crossplane crankshaft being the only exception. But that has all changed for 2010…

While the four Japanese machines remain mostly unchanged, a new European contingent enters the fray alongside Ducati. With BMW’s monstrous S1000RR, Aprilia’s wicked RSV4R and the sinister black KTM RC8R, three totally new rockets have joined the Superbike world and with them have come some big claims and new ideas – both in terms of horsepower and technology. But do these bikes really have what it takes to dethrone the tried-and-true Japanese Inline Fours? Or is it merely a case of a lot of talk but little walk?

Putting all eight of these street-legal track-designed rockets through the wringer, we assembled a talented and experienced team of testers, ranging in ability from expert trackday riders to professional champions. MotoUSA’s regular three-time AMA 250cc GP Champion Chuck Sorenson returned, joining myself and fellow staffers Adam Waheed and Ken Hutchison. Also in the crew was AFM fast-guy and owner of Pacific Track Time Michael Earnest, who can ride Thunderhill quicker than most blindfolded, while young gun racer Frankie Garcia was back for another shootout. Motocross semi-pro-turned-road racer Corey Neuer joined the group, as did Nip/Tuck TV star John Hensley, who has been club racing recently and getting quite fast, the pair providing us with totally different and fresh new angles.

Because of the massive proportions and complexity of this monster shootout, we once again split the track and street portions into separate stories. Furthermore, to get as much objective information as possible, we fitted each of the machines with the latest bolt-on data acquisition systems from Kinelogix for our track test. This gave us head-spinning amounts of numbers and parameters to measure the bikes, but once deciphered, we ended up with ample and interesting hard facts to back up our claims.

For the process of getting the outright fastest lap times in the most evenly-matched and fair way possible, as we’ve done the past couple years, we instated the MotoUSA Superpole system. With Chuck Sorensen and I each putting in an out-lap, one flyer and an in-lap on each of the eight bikes, all fully fueled with pre-heated, brand-new Dunlop tires. Order was drawn out of a hat and the session was done congruently during a 1-hour session. As for the rubber, we used Dunlop’s new AMA-spec DOT Daytona SportBike race tires.

We also rented the defunct El Toro Marine base to gather yet more data, this time from quarter-mile, acceleration and braking tests. Not to mention all were weighed, run on Lee’s Cycle’s dyno and so forth. And once we were able to regain composure and stop our heads from exploding due to the information overload, the end result is the type of comprehensive shootout the readers of this fine publication have come to expect.

Meet the Giants

2010 Superbike Smackdown VII Track
MotoUSA Superbike Smackdown VII class of 2010.

As usual the Big-Four from the Far East have come out to play: Honda’s two-time reigning Smackdown champion CBR1000RR, Kawasaki’s ever-so-slightly updated ZX-10R, Suzuki’s 2009 GSX-R1000 (no 2010s are being imported to the US) and Yamaha’s YZF-R1 with its unorthodox crossplane crank engine configuration. These are joined by a host of European rides, including Ducati’s 1198S Corse Special Edition, KTM’s RC8R, Aprilia’s new RSV4R and BMW’s S1000RR.

The all-new German machine and the Italian incumbent enter the fight as the most-anticipated bikes of the year. The S1000RR, in particular is BMW’s first-ever true hardcore sportbike. But can it compete with the tried-and-true Japanese its first time out? The same holds true for the KTM, the RC8 being its first production sportbike. Although the base model was out last year, for 2010 we get a higher-end ‘R’ edition. As for the Aprilia, with years of manufacturing sportbikes under its belt, the Italian brand definitely has more information to work with than BMW or KTM. But does that mean it will make a better product? With all eight bikes set up and ready to go we were ready to hike-up our skirts and find out. So it’s time to grab a coffee, sit back, relax, and enjoy the 2010 MotoUSA Superbike Smackdown!

Shout Outs…
To make sure we give love where it’s due, here are a list of the supporters and integral personnel that allowed the ultimate Superbike Smackdown to take place:

2010 Superbike Smackdown VII Track
There are a lot of key people that go into making a shootout of this magnitude possible. Big thanks to them all!

Proving rubber for all eight of these high-horsepower machines is no easy task, thus we knew bringing Dunlop in would ensure testing was done on a consistent, high-performance tire. For this we used their latest GP-A AMA-spec race tire, which did well to withstand the day’s abuse at Thunderhill and made for a completely even playing field, which is exactly what we needed.

Making sure we had ample on-board footage for this many machines in the time we had was no easy task, but if it were not for GoPro’s wide angle Hero it would have been impossible. They worked flawlessly and produced some awesome footage. Be sure to check out the videos!

Kinelogix Data Acquisition
Owner Kamal Amer fitted our test bikes with his latest data acquisition systems, providing enough information to launch a space ship. The good part is that their new Race Bike Data System is easy to use and proved to be extremely useful for putting hard numbers with the our seat-of-the-pants findings. Be sure to check them out!

Thunderhill Raceway
T-Hill once again went above and beyond the call of duty to fit us in, making sure our day at the track was smooth and flawless. Not to mention how amazing the track and its surroundings really are. If you haven’t been to the ‘Hill, you must go. It’s the hidden racing treasure of Northern California, no doubt.

The OEMs
Big thanks to
Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, Yamaha, KTM, ApriliaBMW and Ducati for providing support for what was a massive undertaking to say the least.

Steve Atlas

Contributing Editor |Articles | Professional-grade speed and an attitude to match, Steve Atlas has AMA racing creds that are even more extensive than his driving record.