2011 Supersport Shootout IX Track

MotorcycleUSA Staff | June 6, 2011

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We test Dunlop’s Sportmax D211 GP-A road racing tire in our Supersport Shootout. Learn how their AMA-spec race tire performs in the Dunlop D211 GP-A Race Tire Review Video.

Middleweight sportbikes are the gateway into the addictive world of high-performance motorcycling. This Supersport class makes use of compact yet extremely powerful high-revving engines, light, sharp steering chassis and more reasonable price tags—at least compared to liter-bikes—making this genre of motorcycle more accessible to riders that want to get up to speed on the street, racetrack, or both. In the 2011 Supersport Shootout IX Street comparison we analyzed how these motorcycles performed on the road and now we explore their track pedigree in the 2011 Supersport Shootout IX Track.

Returning to the ninth edition of our industry-leading middleweight test is the Japanese contingent consisting of the Honda CBR600RR, Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R, Suzuki GSX-R600 and Yamaha YZF-R6. These four brands represent the classic definition of Supersport courtesy of their liquid-cooled and traverse-mounted 599cc Inline-Four engines hung within aluminum chassis, with adjustable suspension and racing-style brakes.

However, as the segment evolves the conventional Inline-Four format is challenged by a fresh breed of European motorcycles (Ducati 848 EVO, MV Agusta F3 and Triumph Daytona 675R) not bound to the same archaic competition-based engine displacement rules. These new bikes are designed according to demand by riders who value outright engine performance and overall ride-ability in addition to apex strafing performance. Ed. Note: MV’s F3 entry hasn’t even made it to production yet, so we’ll have to wait until next year to see how it stacks up.

Kawasaki’s Ninja ZX-6R returns to paddock with a gold crown etched into its triple clamp after beating up on the competition in both the 2010 Modified Supersport Shootout and the 2009 Supersport Shootout VII. With its racy chassis and strong engine it has proven why it is the new class standard when it comes to outright fast laps. Aside from graphics it is completely unchanged from last year’s machine. Although it doesn’t count for much on the track, it should be noted that the Zed-X is now the most affordable middleweight in this test with its $9999 price tag.

The Honda CBR600RR ($11,199) has been a perennial favorite in our Supersport tests having collected top honors in ’07 and ‘08. Although it’s been five years since its last full re-design, the CBR always impresses us with its nimble handling and strong mid-range engine performance, which makes it one of the easier bikes to ride. Similar to the Kawi it’s completely unchanged aside from colors.

Ducati steps up to the plate with its new 848 EVO ($12,999). This hot rod features an up-spec 848cc L-Twin engine, stout Brembo monobloc front brake calipers and a steering damper. We were thoroughly impressed with it during our 2011 Ducati 848 EVO Superbike First Ride and had a feeling that this could be the bike to beat this year. Could this be the year Ducati finally collects a win.

Historically Yamaha’s YZF-R6 ($10,690 Team Yamaha Blue/White colorway) has always been atop the time sheets. With its high-revving top-end biased engine, razor sharp chassis and strong brakes it’s no wonder why it is one of the most prevalent racebikes on the grid in the club and professional racing. New graphics and a slight bump in MSRP are all that’s new for the 2011 Yamaha YZF-R6.

When it comes to outright racetrack performance Suzuki has been near the front with its GSX-R line of sportbikes. And for ’11 it has an all-new weapon in its arsenal in the form of its GSX-R600 ($11,599). Although it didn’t astonish us with its enhanced performance during the 2011 Suzuki GSX-R600 First Ride it was quite obvious that it is a better platform to attack the competition. Suzuki has yet to win one of these shootouts and is now in a better position than ever before (though the new Gixxer did take top honors in our 2011 Supersport Shootout Street).

Triumph has the distinction of being the most mature platform in this test with its 675cc Inline Three-powered Daytona 675. But for ’11 it comes in a new up-spec ‘R’ version with Ohlins suspension, Brembo monoblocs front brake calipers and a quick-shifter—all at a price only a few hundred dollars more than the Japanese bikes ($11,999). We knew right from the get-go during the 2011 Triumph Daytona 675R First Ride that this British bike would mean business come shootout time.

Although our final entry isn’t allowed to race in the same class as the others we felt that Suzuki’s GSX-R750 would be a worthwhile addition due to its unique position in the market (only 750cc production sportbike available) as well as its competitive pricing structure ($11,999). Like its 600-class brethren it gets some significant upgrades that you can learn more about in the 2011 Suzuki GSX-R750 First Ride. Since it has such an obvious power advantage we made sure it didn’t affect the score sheet or the final rankings, though we did still rate it just to see where it would have ended up in the grand scheme of things.

Seeing as hard core track performance is what this test is all about we spent two days burning laps at Southern California’s newest road course, Chuckwalla Valley Raceway. Compared to other circuits, Chuckwalla’s 2.68-mile layout puts primary emphasis on a bikes cornering ability. Its 17-turn configuration has a mix of slow and medium speed corners that allowed us to dissect the nuances of each of the bike.

To ensure that we had ample grip to test these bikes near the limit of maximum performance we enlisted the help of Dunlop Tires and its latest D211 GP-A racing rubber. This is the same exact rubber that the AMA boys and girls use in the Daytona Sportbike and Motorcycle-Superstore.com Supersport classes. Find out more about this race rubber in the Dunlop D211 GP-A Race Tire Review.

Although they only dole out roughly two-thirds the horsepower at the rear tire as compared to their Superbike brethren these middleweights are still demanding to ride due to the higher corner speeds necessary to extract maximum performance. Accordingly we enlisted our high-caliber testing crew including myself and Editorial Director Ken Hutchison. Once again AMA road racer Steve Rapp joined us for a current pro’s opinion. Also lending a throttle hand were do-it-all test riders Corey Neuer, Frankie Garcia and Contributing Editor Steve Atlas. Lastly, because guys aren’t the only folks to flog sportbikes we got a woman’s opinion in the form of avid trackday rider Jen Ross. So without further ado let’s find out what’s the best middleweight sportbike of ’11 on the track!

MotorcycleUSA Staff