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2012 Superbike Smackdown IX Track

Monday, June 25, 2012

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2012 BMW S1000RR Track Shootout Video
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The German-made Superbike goes to war with the best from Japan and Europe. Watch the 2012 BMW S1000RR Track Comparison Video.
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2012 Honda CBR1000RR Track Shootout Video
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The Honda CBR1000RR faces off against the competition. Will it come out on top this year? Tune in to the 2012 Honda CBR1000RR Track Comparison Video to find out..
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2012 Kawasaki ZX-10R Track Shootout Video
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Watch this hopped-up Kawasaki Ninja sportbike rip around the racetrack in the 2012 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R Track Comparison Video.
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2012 Yamaha YZF-R1 Track Shootout Video
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Curious how Yamaha’s YZF-R1 performs in modified form in the racetrack? Watch the 2012 Yamaha YZF-R1 Comparison Track Video to find out.
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2012 Suzuki GSX-R1000 Track Shootout Video
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Look at the Suzuki’s liter-bike in action in modified form from Thunderhill Raceway in the 2012 Suzuki GSX-R1000 Track Comparison Video.
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2012 KTM RC8R Track Shootout Video
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The KTM RC8R aims to be the best in this year’s Superbike Shootout. Watch the 2012 KTM RC8R Track Comparison Video to see how it ranks this time around.
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2012 Ducati 1199 Panigale S Track Shootout Video
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Discover if Ducati’s 1199 Panigale is like in comparison to the best from Japan in Europe in the 2012 Ducati 1199 Panigale S Track Comparison Video.
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2012 Aprilia RSV4 Factory APRC Track Shootout Video
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See and hear Aprilia’s RSV4 in action at Thunderhill Raceway as it goes for the No. 1 spot in our Superbike Shootout. Learn more in the 2012 Aprilia RSV4 Factory APRC Track Comparison Video.

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2012 MV Agusta F4 R Track Shootout Video
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Watch as we put MV Agusta’s liter-bike through its paces at Thunderhill Raceway in the 2012 MV Agusta F4R Track Shootout Video.

Sportbikes are the gateway vehicle to an adrenaline-filled life on two wheels. Born and bred for the track, these Superbikes are production racers whose true potential can only be unleashed by pinning them on a closed course circuit. For 2012 that track would be the venerable Thunderhill Raceway Park where it’s 15 turns, numerous elevation changes, wide tarmac and long straightaway proves to be the perfect playground for Motorcycle USA’s most anticipated annual shootout – the Superbike Smackdown Track comparison.

The ninth annual Superbike Smackdown proved to be our most adventurous undertaking to date, with nine motorcycles pitted against each other in a winner-take-all style shootout. In fact, the only bike we failed to obtain was Erik Buell’s American-made, V-twin-powered EBR 1190RS (starting at $37,499). To further up the ante, we took a cue from our 2010 Modified Supersport Shootout – allowing each bike this year to be fitted with an aftermarket exhaust system, fuel-injection tuning module and quick-shifter. After all, those are the most popular upgrades track junkies do to their machines. Just because we opened the door to play by these rules, to our surprise, there were a few OEM’s who chose not to make these changes. Would it hurt their chances?

Once again, the BMW S1000RR ($15,050) was the benchmark going into the test with the German bike having won the last two Superbike Smackdown tests (both street and track). And for 2012 it was in an even better position to defend its crown after having received a host of chassis and electronic updates (see the 2012 BMW S1000RR First Ride from Valencia, Spain). Originally eager to showcase its accessory racing exhaust, at the last minute BMW elected to leave its machine stock for this track test. BMW chose to rely on its proven high-horsepower engine, sophisticated electronics package and the momentum of back-to-back Smackdown wins as it views for a Three-Peat. It already took the win in our 2012 Superbike Smackdown IX Street and is looking to make a clean sweep.

Honda’s CBR1000RR ($13,800) has been a perennial favorite in our Superbike Smackdown tests. Like the BMW, it also received very select chassis and aesthetic upgrades but to our surprise, nothing significant to the engine. Despite keeping the upgrades simple, it was well received during the 2012 Honda CBR1000RR First Ride at Sonoma Raceway. Honda has always had its bikes well sorted for these tests so it was no surprise when our CBR showed up fitted with every upgrade we allowed in the test. A Yoshimura R-77 Slip-On ExhaustPower Commander V and Dynojet Quick Shifter Expansion Module combined to wake-up this passive-aggressive superbike and give it a significant performance boost on track. Every year that we have conducted the controlled Superpole parameters for our track test, the CBR1000RR has earned the fastest lap of the test and the coveted Superpole trophy. With everyone gunning for it, could Honda etch its name in the cup for a fourth consecutive year?

Having just received a wheel-to-wheel revamp last season, Kawasaki’s Ninja ZX-10R ($13,999 non-ABS version) is one of three motorcycles that entered this contest as a carry-over model. Kawasaki chose to add a Leo Vince GP Pro Evo II Slip-On ExhaustDynojet Power Commander V tuning module and Dynojet Quick Shifter Expansion Module to help in its efforts to dethrone the Beemer or at least steal the Superpole award.

The ’12 season also saw Yamaha’s crossplane engine-equipped YZF-R1 ($13,990) receive a round of updates, highlighted by the fitment of traction control as we detailed in the 2012 Yamaha YZF-R1 First Ride. For our showdown, the Tuning Fork company teamed with long-time racing powerhouse Graves Motorsports. If any company knows how to get the most from the R1 it’s the Graves crew. Like Honda, the boys in blue spared no effort in getting the R1set up with every available option on our list: A Graves Motorsports Titanium Exhaust System was paired with a Power Commander V and Dynojet Quick Shifter Expansion Module. The result was an even sweeter sounding superbike than the one we rode in stock trim during our street test.

Suzuki’s GSX-R1000 ($13,799) has won more Superbike Smackdown tests than any other brand. Although it’s been a while since it last collected a win (2007), Suzuki came to the test anxious to build on that record with the introduction of a new and improved GSX-R. Earlier this year we tested it at Miami-Homestead Speedway during the 2012 Suzuki GSX-R1000 First Ride and came away impressed with the effort. For our Smackdown, Suzuki enlisted the tuning wizards at Yoshimura who fitted its Yoshimura TRC-D Full System paired with the Bazzaz Performance Z-FI QS Quick Shift System which is a fuel module and quick shifter all in one.

In the Orange corner we have the KTM RC8R ($16,499) which is also a carry-over model for 2012. It receives a few minor updates, so the real news for our shootout was the installation of a full Akrapovic factory racing exhaust as well as upgraded fuel and ignition mapping to accompany the sweet, hand-crafted Titanium exhaust. The staccato sound pumping out of this Big Twin was a stark contrast to the high-pitch howling from the quartet of Inline Fours it was up against.

Without question, the Ducati 1199 Panigale S ($22,995) was the most anticipated bike of the year. Everyone was eager to see how it would stack up and after an impressive showing on our street shootout where it finished third behind the BMW and CBR, the Ducati was set to shine on the track for which it was bred. Heading into this test the new Italian Superbike had received rave reviews following the 2012 Ducati 1199 Panigale First Ride from the Middle East and we were all excited to see if it lives up to the hype. To sweeten the pot even further our test machine was equipped with a full race exhaust from technical partner Termignoni. The stock electronics package of the S-model would not be swapped out for any type of aftermarket system. Like the BMW, the Ducati would go at it with minimal upgrades.

After a year off, Aprilia was back in a big way with its RSV4 Factory APRC ($22,999). This V-Four-powered Italian superbike features some of the most advanced electronics on a production on a modern motorcycle including traction control a myriad of engine maps, quickshifter and a chassis that allows the engine to be moved for-aft –up-and –down, adjustable swingarm pivot point and the list goes on. Although the RSV4 didn’t enjoy any major upgrades for this season, our test unit came equipped with a full Akrapovic Racing Exhaust System from the Aprilia accessory catalog. The stock electronics are more than enough to hang with this crowd so no aftermarket gadgets were used.

Finally, after years of unanswered invitations, San Diego, California's Moto Forza, an MV Agusta dealership, stepped up and provided us our first opportunity to toss the 2012 MV Agusta F4R ($19,498) into the mix. This exotic sportbike is half piece of art, half racebike. Its wailing Inline Four powerplant comes with the necessary credentials and reputation to shake up the finishing order. Unfortunately, since it was a last minute addition to our test, it didn’t come with official OEM support and we didn’t have the means to fit up a race pipe, so we tested just as it rolls off the showroom floor.

Test-riding literbikes at the track isn’t all fun and games despite what our ex-wives would tell you - it’s actually one of the most challenging aspects of magazine work. That’s why we enlist a competent group of riders capable of giving accurate feedback at a challenging circuit like northern California’s Thunderhill Raceway. We chose to utilize T-Hill’s 2.86-mile, 15-turn road course, as it offers a tremendous variety of high- and low-speed corners and both heavy acceleration and hard braking zones which allow for a more authentic assessment of the performance capabilities of today’s Superbikes. As for tires, each machine was fitted with Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP (high-performance street tires) on Day 1 and Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa race tires (SC2) for Day 2.

Our assessment squad consisted of some old and new faces. Returning this year were long-time expert-level club racers Michael Earnest and Corey Neuer along with freshly
Superbike Smackdown IX Horsepower Comparison Chart
Superbike Smackdown IX Torque Comparison Chart
hired AMA PRO racer Frankie Garcia as well as MotoUSA O.G. Ken Hutchison and yours truly. After a few year hiatus, our design department VP and hardened on/off-road motorcycle racer Brian Chamberlain swapped his mouse for a throttle one more time. New to the roster are trackday rider and Digital Media Producer Justin Dawes and former AMA Pro Thunder Champion Tom Montano of Cycle News. We also had the pleasure of using our Motorcycle-Superstore sponsored AMA SuperSport racer Devon McDonough.

Some of you might be wondering what happened to last year’s celebrity guest tester Steve Rapp? Well, just days before our test, Rapp broke his wrist while racing at Sonoma Raceway so his role was filled by reigning AFM Champion and Superbike Smackdown veteran, Chris Siglin. As anyone in AFM will attest, you’ll be hard pressed to find another rider with as much raw speed and critical track knowledge at Thunderhill. Siglin and I would pull rider duty during Superpole and the added pressure of turning laps alone on the track while every single OEM, test rider and corner worker soaked in every move with stop-watches in hand.

Now that you know the players, the riders and the rules, let’s find out what the best literclass bike is for ripping around the racetrack.

Superbike Smackdown IX Photos
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Superbike Smackdown Track Scoring
2011 Supersport Shootout Behind The Scenes
Compared to some magazine tests where it chooses a winner by what color looks the best, the results of our comparison are arrived at in a comprehensive and logical manner. Each machine is scored on unbiased performance based factors - things like corner speed, side-to-side flick rate and braking and acceleration force. Of course, rider feedback is also valuable so we have an equal number (10) of subjective categories allowing each motorcycle to earn points for the characteristics it does best. Points were then tallied based on a hybrid Formula One points scale with 10 points for first, eight for second, seven for third, six for fourth, etc., with all 20 categories scored equally. The numbers are then calculated and we come up with the bike’s finishing position and this year’s Superbike Smackdown IX champ!
Monster Energy Rehab Drinks
Burning 100s of laps on 186 mph sportbikes all-day zaps a lot of energy. Monster Energy’s new Rehab blend of drinks provided a quick and tasty pick-me-up during our test. Available in five yummy flavors, Rehab quenched our thirst and delivered hydration all while giving a mild, jitter-free energy boost. The best part is that it’s only got 20 calories per can. You can’t always ride like a pro but at least you can drink like one.
Superpole Lap Time Scoring
In an effort to experience how these Superbikes perform at a simulated race pace we employ a World Superbike-inspired Superpole lap time scoring system. Both Adam Waheed and Chris Siglin put in two flying laps on each of the nine bikes, all fully fueled with brand-new, pre-heated Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa race tires (SC2 compound). Furthermore traction and/or wheelie control is disabled (if applicable). The order the bikes were ridden in were drawn out of hat. Each rider’s fastest lap was recorded and averaged with overall points being awarded by finishing order. The bike that records the fastest outright time during the session is awarded the Superpole trophy. This is the fourth year running the Superpole-style format and so far, Honda has won the cup every year.
Kinelogix Data Acquisition
Opinions are like backsides… everyone has one. Therefore, to help separate fact from fiction we recruited Kinelogix. Specializing in data acquisition for the motorsports world, owner Kamal Amer fitted each motorcycle with the latest version of its Track Day Data Logger. The compact device is self-contained and can be mounted atop the rear passenger seat or cowling of most motorcycles. It records a number of variables, in real-time, including acceleration and braking forces, speed, lean angle, and, of course, lap times – all of which we use to verify our assessment from behind the windscreen.
2012 Superbike Smackdown Weight
2012 Superbike Smackdown Superpole

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Alstar1k   August 27, 2012 11:02 AM
@Hutchy: Am I reading this right? Did the Yami really lose 4hp with the addition of the Graves System and fuel controller? Most bikes got around 10hp with the GSXR up like 16hp after "mods" - Just wondering. At any rate.. You guys do a GREAT job of providing us with the type of info we need to make informed buying decisions. Motorcycles aren't easily accessible for real-world test drives before dropping the dough!
jacksja1   July 13, 2012 06:59 AM
Haters. Sorry
jacksja1   July 13, 2012 06:56 AM
@Hutchy Regardless of what other ppl think I like what you guys did with the modified comparisons. Your average street rider or track day guy is not going to be ridin around with a stock motorcycle. He's going to at least have a slip-on and a pc. I hope you guys continue tdo the modified comparisons. Like you said. "For the Hatred". LOL
Hutchy   July 12, 2012 10:52 AM
@Razzic: Unfortunately we will not be conducting a 600-Supersport shootout this year. There are no new bikes and the tests cost a lot of money to pull off. Since we no longer get kick-backs from the OEMs (That's a joke for the haters) we simply cannot justify it until we have some new bikes. Which should be 2013 as rumors of a new ZX-6R and hopefully a surprise from Yamaha or Suzuki might facilitate the need for a middle weight shootout. Until then, you guys will have to e content with our upcoming scooter comparison, small-bore dual sport and neoprene compression shorts shootouts.
purebusiness1   July 7, 2012 06:26 PM
@S1KRR Obviously you're biased towards the BMW (hence your name). But I don't blame you, it's mostly about personal preference at this level, anyway. All great bikes, but I simply love the 10R the most. As for where I learned about the BMW not being restricted, I'd love to supply a source but I cannot remember where I found that information, it's been months. Regardless, the S1000RR has other issues going on...I was going to test ride a demo today while my ZX-10R was getting it's 600 mile service but the service guy informed me that there is currently a recall on the S1000RR. Something about a bolt in the engine (dealing with cam chain, if I remember correctly) that wasn't "lock-tighted" at the factory and could cause catastrophic engine failure. The entire engine has to be pulled just to get the bolt. Also, little things like how the oil drain bolt is located above the header making oil changes a PITA, wth were they thinking? Anyway, good luck to you all and ride safe!
Razzic   July 5, 2012 04:34 AM
@ Hutchy, when do you think we will see the 600 shootout? I loved the last one, was awesome.
URBANFALCON   July 1, 2012 11:53 PM
While I like to see shootouts between different motorcycle manufacturers, having them supply machinery that has been modded defeats the purpose and more likely indicates to me what the bike should of been straight off the show room floor, might be an idea for you all to read Junes edition of Australian Motor Cycle News for a real world fight fest!
S1KRR   July 1, 2012 08:14 PM
@purebusiness1. Please indicate how BMW snuck past the regulations, the only place I hear this unfounded rumor is on the Kawi 10R forums. Don't be blaming the government for Kawasaki's choice to restrict the 10R. Prety lame for you to be labeling BMW as a cheater, man up and place the blame on Kawasaki for not stepping up. The Japanese manufacturers have always restricted their liter bikes, thanks to BMW for stepping up and putting out the least restricted liter bike.
leward18   June 30, 2012 04:57 AM
Is it me or is Justin Dawes starting to look more and more like a bear with every video? Fear the beard.......great comparison with insight and good background music. Keep it up.
purebusiness1   June 29, 2012 02:16 AM
The only modification that the 10R needed to win the fastest lap was an ECU re-flash. The stupid government pencil pushers have forced Kawasaki to limit as much as 25hp at 13,000 rpm (about 15hp at max power output). This is because of noise regulations. BMW actually snuck past this regulation somehow from what I read. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the real cheater here is BMW for not following noise regulations like the other guys. Thankfully, there are places that do the ECU re-flash... See this video if you don't believe me: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tjX_vNgRdek
rogase   June 28, 2012 03:01 AM
Ducati would be pretty disappointed with 7th seems like they spent to many resources on the styling and not enough on the engineering. By the way if any one says an inline 4 lacks character should listen to these bikes un plugged in your videos, awesome!!! By the way top job you guys comprehensive and enjoyable shoot out, well done.
jacksja1   June 28, 2012 12:16 AM
Hey what's goin on motorcycle USA. I Jus gotta say. I loved this years superbike smackdown. I loved how you guys made the bikes actually like everyday riders would actually do to theres. It was definitely fun to watch.. I was so excited about seeing the track portion I even got my ol' lady to watch em with me. LOL. Once again. Good job to the staff and to everyone else who had anything to this years shoot out. LOVE THE MODIFIED COMPAROS
luv2spd   June 26, 2012 05:45 PM
This was a great comparison and I love the fact that each bike was tested with a bit of modification, I would say about 80% of these bikes on the road have the same modification. I hate to see the awesome R1 in last place, but the test was fair and square.
Hutchy   June 26, 2012 02:40 PM
@AMMAR: I understand that written words do not always convey 100% of what the writer is thinking or trying to say so, no sweat there. I just want to make sure to answer questions whenever possible, give good feedback to you guys and help everyone understand that its not a perfect science. A funny note too: We were pressed for years by readers to conduct these tests using modified bikes. Initially the OEMs did not want to do it at all. We broke through in 201 with our Modified 600 Shootout and then gave it a run this year. It really makes it useful for the moajority of readers and in my opinion, more interesting because you guys can see what worked and what didn't. @GP: Believe me, it sucks for us to place a bike as awesome, popular and bitchin looking as the R1 in such a low position. I know Graves probably wants to punch Adam in the face right after the Yamaha PR team gets done with him. But we can't just rank the bikes by their reputations, our friendships with OEMs, personal preference or anything like that. We just call it like we see it and hope we don't get banned from riding their bikes in the future. As far as second-guessing our test riders go: Ha, ha, ha, seriously? I would put our crew of young guns up against any other mag's crew and to further that, Montano and Earnest are two of the most respected test riders and competent road racers on the west coast. Now, sure you can pick on me for being too old & slow but that's why we bring in this crew of hot-rippers: So we can make sure we ride the bajeezus out of these bikes and that the riders that are giving feedback actually have some experience under their belts. It's tough to find guys who can ride ALL DAY, give good feedback, look good, not complain about stuff but actually help sort it out, fit in with our group and most of all, that can haul ass and not crash during the test. If you guys have any recommendations, let us know - we are always looking for a few good riders. We tried to get Scott Russll this year to replace our injured Rapp-star but there wasnt enough notice for us to get him this time...maybe next year though?
Ammar   June 26, 2012 11:43 AM
@Hutchy, thanks for your clarification mate, I will be honest with you and say that I really enjoy your smackdown comparisons guys. it is really good. I was disappointed just because I felt that this comapro could much more better if every bike was tuned equally. congrats to BMW for coming with a bike as good as this in the stock form ! the CBR is really great bike and I think Honda should really do something for top end power for this bike as it looks like that this is the only thing it misses. do not take my comments badly guys and keep the good work up.
Hutchy   June 26, 2012 08:12 AM
@Ammar & Stock vs Modded: We were pretty disappointed when the BMW, Aprilia & Ducati showed up with minimal modifications. We set the parameters of the test nearly 2-months in advance and gave the OEMs the option to run all those bolt-on parts. They chose to come to the fight with stock bikes, we couldn't exactly leave them out after the logistical nightmare of getting 9-bikes, 9-riders, 200-Pirelli tires, photographer, Kinilogix, caterer & a superpole trophy all to arrive at the track for a test on the same date now could we? No. Our goal was to show the advantages of each bike with some basic modifications but in all honesty, these three bikes are the most technologically advanced sportbikes ever made so obviously their PR team felt they stoood just as good of a chance with minimal or no mods so we cant fault them. The BMW barely lost out & that's a testament to how good a stock S1000RR is right there. Anyway, we never expect to satisfy everyone's demands (Readers & OEMs alike) so feel free to take it for what its worth - from what we are hearing this was a great concept for a test and we will probably do it again sometime - but probably not every time we conduct a Smackdown from here on out.
bidwell   June 26, 2012 04:37 AM
Actually I think making simple mods to the bikes make perfect sense, I have yet to see a completely stock sport bike ANYWHERE (street or track). The only faux pax is that ALL the bikes should have been modded including the Beemer and Duc. I have yet to see a CBR without a Z-Bomb either, that would be far more real world than comparing a bunch of stock bikes.

In any case it was a good test and interesting read.
Fangit   June 26, 2012 03:03 AM
Guys, there is something drastically wrong with that MV or the dyno. There is no way those power curves could be correct. Max torque at max revs? 80 hp at 10,000 rpm? I don't think so.
Ammar   June 26, 2012 02:13 AM
This comparison could not be more unfair, the Beemer is stock and the Panigale is almost stock !!??? come on guys ! Respect our minds for the God sake. The CBR is an awesome superbike but it deserves a better fight/comparison than this. It is either all stock or all equally tuned.
GP   June 25, 2012 07:45 PM
Well - after watching the video on your R1 riding experience and seeing the scoring, I have determined that your crew must have been stoned. Please proceed to Graves boot camp where Drill Sergent Hayes will make men of you (be aware you will be following - at a long distance - his 22 yr old apprentice).
GP   June 25, 2012 02:46 PM
this scoring process certainly presents a quandary......the 2nd lowest scoring bike dominates Barber....maybe it's low score wins (ast least in AMA)?
Even so, I enjoy these comparos (as well as the street) - keep it up.
RocketPunch   June 25, 2012 02:31 PM
IMO, the shootout stopped being relevant once you start allowing power & QS mods and, even worst comparing bike with mods to bikes without mods. It makes all your data essentially useless and pointless. So what's next? Have each manufacturer bring their own rider to the test? Not going to look forward to the shootout next year.