Can a superbike be made to handle as good as a supersport?
Recently I had a good chance to analyse the track performance of a Ducati 1199S Panigale and 2012 CBR600RR with a couple of control variables. This is a very good opportunity to objectively pinpoint how the two bikes are different, and also how the two riders are different.
Both bikes were ridden at equal comfort levels with enough safety margin (i.e., “nothing to win, everything to lose”) in the range of 1:16 to 1:22 around Pukekohe Raceway track, which is in the upper medium range for streetbikes.
Some typical lap records for comparisons are 1:05 (V8 Supercars), 1:10 (national level NZ V8), 1:15 (Toyota TR86 racing), and a National-level superbike guy who does around 1:08 regularly.
Analysis was done using QStarz LT-Q6000 GPS datalogger and QRacing software.
The bikes are both more-or-less standard with some affordable modifications.
- Pirelli SuperCorsa SP tyres, running 29F/30R with track temperature around 23C
- Adjustable rearsets giving 1 inch higher peg position
- Revalved and resprung stock Ohlins suspension (TTX36 mk.I rear)
- Michelin Power Supersports tyres, running 30F/27R with track temperature around 23C
- Adjustable Sato rearsets giving 1 – 1.5 inch higher peg position
- Revalved OEM front forks with Ohlins springs
- Ohlins TTX36 rear shock
- Rear sprocket +2 tooth (from 39 to 41), which aided greatly in acceleration
- Annitori RL II quickshifter (the Ducati has its own quickshifter as standard from factory)
Based on these, both bikes are more-or-less identical (except for the electronics and power), and this is great because both riders are quite identical (around 60-65kg in the nude) and have similar riding style.
Pukekohe Raceway used to be known as a power track. In fact, it was virtually an oval track with one slow corner in each end.
In 2013, the track was revamped with the addition of 3 new corners which halved the backstraight. This made it a lot more exciting (although we won’t see 295kph in the speedo anymore), as well as allowing supersport bikes to start showing up their worth.
This is the data comparing (1 – Green) my best time on the Ducati 1199S 29/03/2014, (2 – Orange) my best time on the Honda CBR600RR 08/03/2014, and (3 – Purple) my brother’s best time on the Honda CBR600RR 08/03/2014.
Graph below shows the bike’s main performance metric (i.e., speed) measured by the location on the track. Yellow dots in the graph correspond to the 11 split lines marked around the track
1. POWER: Ducati 1199S
First is what everyone wants to know: how much more powerful is the Ducati, being NZ$20k more expensive than the Honda? The graph shows a clear advantage through the acceleration points between splits 3-4, 6-7, and 11-Finish. The power and acceleration of the Ducati 1199S was unmatched that, when my brother (who was always aggressive with the throttle) tried it, it provoked a candid comment of “my arms are hurting from hanging on to that thing”. It accelerated from 110kph to 225kph (+115) in the space of just 300m and 6 seconds, versus the CBR600RR’s from 97kph to 202kph (+105, helped a lot by the larger rear sprocket).
2. BRAKING: CBR600RR with Brembo HH track pads
Looking at the backstraight acceleration, due to mortal fear, I started to taper well before split 4 rather than keeping the acceleration. If the acceleration were kept, the bike would’ve reached 260kph which would present a great issue in braking (as that part of the track is actually a kink and thus the bike is not straight up). Meanwhile, the expert CBR600RR pilot (purple) keeps accelerating well toward Split 4, only to brake right then.
The braking performance itself is clearly different, with the 600 braking a lot harder (with both riders!) compared to the Panigale. This is interesting because instinctively I tried to brake harder on the Panigale due to the comfort of its ABS; but in reality both my Brother and me decelerated a lot faster on the 600! Perhaps the Panigale can really benefit from better brake pads (since so far the ABS is not kicking in yet, indicating there is reserve still for brake improvements).
And those that observed the pictures above may also tell me that the Panigale can do with some extra preloads, as the suspension bottoms out under braking.
Those that are impressed on the power pull from 110kph to 225kph in just 300m, both bikes can brake from around 230kph to just over 100kph in less than 200m in just around 5 seconds.
3. HANDLING: Ducati Panigale 1199S
This is the most interesting one: can a superbike compete with a supersport in handling?
Interestingly, in 1199S case, it seems it can!
First, the fast sweepers. Pukekohe has 3 fast sweepers (splits 1-2 decelerating bumpy flat righthander, 9-10 double apex lefthander, and 10-11 uphill cresting righthander). And in all the three segments, the green line (Panigale, Me) stayed above the orange line (CBR600RR, Me), indicating that the Panigale can hold faster cornering speed than the 600.
Second, the slow corners. Pukekohe has 4 slow corners (splits 2-3 combination of left-right-right, 5-6 right hander immediately after hard braking, 6-7 lefthander, and 8-9 hairpin corner). Again, the green line (Panigale, Me) stayed above the Orange line (CBR600RR, Me) or the Purple line (CBR600RR, My Brother) except immediately after hard braking.
In summary, the Panigale is both able to hold higher cornering speed and be as agile through the slow speed corners as a supersport bike in the hands of the same pilot. What I am not sure, however, is how much is attributable to lightweight wheels. And whether a 600 with lightweight wheels could far outhandle the Panigale.
4. RIDERS: everybody’s a winner!
Although on the surface both pilots seem to have similar riding style, GPS data shows valuable insights into what makes a good lap. Comparing the orange (Me) and purple (my Brother) lines for CBR600RR, we start to see a few weaknesses that contribute to the almost 1 second difference in lap times, interestingly through overbraking. Except through the hairpin (split 8-9), the purple line always dipped far below the orange line in every start of the turn, and particularly after the hard braking at the end of split 5-6. This overbraking typically causes the bike to enter the corner too slow, resulting in instability through the initial turn (most likely the feeling of “falling in”), leading to the rider reducing the lean and ending up running wide through the exit, having to delay powering out until the bike is fully straightened up and lined up to the track.
By stabilising the corner entry, the rider would be able to start the turn fully leaned over, resulting in tighter line and the ability to accelerate sooner without having to wait for the bike to complete the turn. See the video at the bottom of this page around 00:45 – 00:55 mark to see how wide the CBR600RR pilot’s line is, and how much tighter lines can be pulled (nonetheless with a superbike in this case).
CONCLUSION 1: THE VALUE OF GPS DATA ACQUISITION
The value of GPS data acquisition lies in the ability to compare lap times, particularly against a controlled benchmark. By discovering inefficient speed and lines, very focused improvements can be made to not only reduce the lap but also increase safety margin by fixing the lines. It is definitely less of a bragging right, and more about solving the inability to see yourself on the track (and to make great video with telemetry overlay!).
CONCLUSION 2: SUPERBIKE VS. SUPERSPORT
So, it is a no-brainer that Panigale is more powerful than the 600. But it is doubtful that it is $20k more powerful. What it does carry is a package that is both more powerful and as nimble as a 600cc bike. Ducati is definitely not bragging when it quotes 165kg dry and 188kg wet weights. With it only 5-10 kg heavier than a 600, aided with ABS, DTC, and slipper clutch it is definitely able to be as good in handling as the typical supersports of today.
Meanwhile, here is the video for the green line (personal best of 1:16.03 on the Ducati 1199S Panigale)
Edit – 28/7/2016
Almost two years have passed, and now both bikes are trailered to the track, with race tyres, and tyre warmers. Both bike+rider’s best times are now in the low 1:12s.
At Hampton Downs, another local track, the Panigale’s best time is 1:10 while the CBR600RR best time is 1:09.9.
Again, this proves that everybody’s a winner. The riding style and challenges faced by the riders are different for each bike, yet bigger is not always miles better. Just different.
Perhaps, the Panigale’s price tag is the heaviest part that slowed the bigger bike down?