Rank And File
Despite making nearly all the right moves, the R6 gets edged out for second place by the stable and awesome handling CBR.
Let's preface this by reiterating what is becoming a clich in this class: These bikes are so very closely matched, and there are no bad ones here, so there are no real losers. The last-placed bike in our test just might be the perfect match for you. And regarding lap times, let's remember they came from a fast trackday rider and not a pro racer. Your mileage may vary.
Fourth Place Suzuki GSX-R600
We battled setup issues at both tracks and never really got it feeling like a class beater. It does the job and performs well, but its scores were decidedly mid-pack other than for its transmission and torque. "The Suzuki has the right stuff," says Hutchison. "The problem lies in its competition."
Third Place Yamaha YZF-R6
This one was a real squeaker. "Yeah but," we hear you say, "it was the quickest 600 around the track." Well, that was in the hands of just a single rider. When the ballots were tallied among our five testers, the improved Yamaha came up just a bit short. But other than needing its clutch for racing upshifts, the R6 does nothing wrong. "The R6 is the bike that doesn't totally stand out in any one area but just does everything well," notes Chamberlain.
Second Place Honda CBR600RR
Okay, so it's a little weird that the third-quickest bike at Thunderhill was scored higher than the lap-time runner up, but don't forget we also rated the bikes for their performance at Infineon, a circuit where the Honda showed competitive pace. Based on its totally solid chassis that never failed to encourage rider confidence, the CBR was ranked higher than the Yamaha by three of our testers, and one even rated the Honda highest. "Its slight lack of low-end and mid-range power makes it a little slower coming out of the corners," notes Chamberlain, "but in the areas where you can keep the rpm's up it feels right on par."
First Place Kawasaki ZX-6R
So the ZX comes out on top, just as it did on the street. Kawasaki has finally given the baby Ninja a chassis that can keep up with its stellar engine, completing a total package of terrific brakes, neutral handling, a better riding position and that slipper clutch that we're so enamored with. Not to mention the burly 636cc of power. Basically, the Kaw clearly has the most motor and does nothing wrong.
"The 636 motor really shines at the track, enabling you to take full advantage of its extra horsepower," says Chamberlain. Adds Roberti, "The Kaw stands on top when at a full race pace."
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