Fourth Place: Suzuki GSX-R1000
2004 Suzuki GSX-R1000 at Laguna Seca for the Superbike Smackdown Track Test.
Although the Gixxer's lap time was slowest, there's no doubt that more work on its setup and a clear track would have it firmly in the hunt. But time once again proves to be a bitter foe in the up-to-the-minute sportbike classes, and the GSX-R a stride behind.
"It has good stability," Becklin offered, "but it requires more effort to turn the bike in, and its suspension is skittish entering turns on the brakes."
Still, it's one hell of a machine that is not to be trifled with, and it could be argued that its punchy motor, realistic gearing and cushiest seat make it the best streetbike of the pack.
"The GSX-R is really fun to ride and you only notice its deficiencies after you ride one of the other three bikes," sez the prez.
Third Place: Yamaha R1
Crevier hasn't lost his verve. If he wasn't wheelying down the Corkscrew, he was doing tire-smoking burnouts around a CHP bike in the pits! You gotta love him.
What's this? The second quickest bike around Laguna is ranked third? Yeah, we're having a tough time with this one, too.
"When testing a bike, the easiest way to write about it is to find its flaws," Chamberlain stated. "With the Yamaha there were none. Okay, maybe the bike is not as light as the Kawi, but for the average track rider the difference is not noticeable."
Indeed, it's difficult to fault the stunning new Yamaha. It's got some serious power, feels nice and narrow, and is nearly imperturbable in the corners. But the fact of the matter is that none of our riders chose the R1 as their favorite.
"The thing about the R1," Hutchison surmised, "is that it was stuck somewhere in between the two bikes I liked best. It was not as smooth as the Honda but smoother than the Kawasaki. But then it was not as exciting as the Kawasaki but more exciting than the Honda." We'd like to apologize to Yamaha for ranking one of the most thrilling bikes we've ever tested in third place.
Second Place: Honda CBR1000RR
Crevier picked the CBR as his first choice, and who are we to argue with him. We'd like to see this CBR painted in the yellow and purple Smokin' Joe's Racing livery from when Fuzzy was Miguel Duhamel's Honda teammate in the 1996-97 AMA Superbike seasons.
Some conspiracy theorists believe motojournalists often highly rank Honda products because of back-room under-the-table payoffs. Well, if that's true, they're not big enough to displace the King Kong Kawi from the top of the heap. Don Becklin and Brian Korfhage telling you the CBR is their favorite is one thing, but when someone of Steve Crevier's caliber picks it as his choice, as he did, you might listen a little closer.
"The CBR is soooo refined," said Korfagio, the man who distributes the checks from Big Red. "It makes me sound like a broken record, but Honda's attention to detail and ability to make things work properly is unmatched."
An aftermarket pipe with the ECU reprogrammed to work with a set of lumpier cams would put the CBR over the top.
The Winnah! Kawasaki ZX-10R
Crevier used the awesome (and we're not using that term lightly) power of the ZX-10R to get the fastest lap time around Laguna. On the track, lap times rule.
Okay, maybe picking the bike with the most power and lightest weight isn't especially creative, and fitting an aftermarket steering damper is a bit unfair. But there's a lot to be said about the fastest accelerating streetbike ever conceived. And judging by its quickest lap time, a 1:35.5, it doesn't appear to have any trouble getting around corners, either.
"The bike would carve through the corners with the best of them," Chamberlain noted. "Out on the straights, the ZX really shined. Its 155 horses at the rear wheel would easily eat up anything it came across."
Nothing inhales a road any road like the ZX-10R. And for that, the Kawasaki takes the 2004 Superbike Smackdown track title to go along with its win in the street category. There may be easier bikes to go fast on, but none more thrilling than the ZX. And that's what this class is all about.
Even with a steering damper.
MCUSA would like to thank the following people for their assistance in pulling this test together:
Rick Menapace and Pirelli
Jerry Jirkovsky and California Race Services
Mark Duncan and Club Desmo
Pacific Track Time
And, most of all, Steve Crevier, who was more cooperative, friendly and entertaining than even our high expectations for him.
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Check out the "Specs." for the 2004 Superbike Smackdown Track.