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Road test GSX-R1000 v Fireblade

Words Emma Franklin Pics Jason Critchell

kings of the road Loads of torque, immense chassis and no electronics, the 2012 Fireblade and GSX-R1000 are a mono-wheeled salute to the last in a dying breed of pure, full-bore road sports bikes

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I’ll get abuse for saying this, but: sometimes these ‘ultra’ litre bikes leave me cold. OK, so I’d be lying if I said blasting around on something with nigh-on 200bhp and electronic safety nets didn’t get my fun gland twitching. But then so does playing Grand Teft Auto on the Xbox. To me, running over prozzies and dealing skag in console-based virtual reality is a lot like riding an S1000RR on a trackday. It’s naughty, it’s out of the ordinary and it’s billed as being risk-free. Sure the do-gooders don’t like it and it’s not very politically correct, but sod them, it’s not doing any harm. Or is it? Just as violent games are teaching kids it’s OK to slap a hoe if she cuts into your profits, ultra litre bikes dripping with tech are teaching riders that every cack-handed action doesn’t have an equal and ouchy reaction. Where’s the finesse? Where’s the respect? So the GSX-R1000 and Fireblade are something of an alternative. On the forked road that has divided the modern litre bike market, they’ve wheelied and wheelspun down the path signposted ‘real world’. So that’s where we are, Matt and I, far from the hyperreal environment of a track-based press launch in deepest, darkest Leicestershire.

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MotoGP Preview

Can this triCked-up wsb bike live with the MotoGp prototypes? CRT is a new kind of MotoGP machine, designed for our times (i.e when there’s bugger all money about) Words Mat Oxley Pics Jason Critchel, Gold & Goose

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Until this year, unless you were someone like Casey Stoner, there was only one real way to go MotoGP racing: lease a prototype MotoGP bike from one of the factories, for around £1.2 million each. And that’s just 12 months rental fee – the bikes have to returned to the factory at the end of the season. It’s a rubbish deal and that’s why’s Dorna have created a new formula to get more bikes on the grid. Claiming Rule Team (CRT) bikes can be powered by tuned superbike engines and are therefore bargain-basement by comparison. Cost is about half that of a factory prototype lease fee and you own the hardware. No wonder that almost half this year’s 21-strong grid is made up of CRT bikes. But cheap doesn’t make a race bike. Fast makes a race bike. So will these CRT bikes be fast enough to chase podium finishes, like the best privateer bikes could in the ’80s and ’90s? At first it looked like they had no chance. When Colin Edwards tested his Suter BMW at

the first Sepang tests he was six seconds down on Casey Stoner, which would have him lapped in the Malaysian GP. And when Randy de Puniet had his first run on Aprilia’s ART at Valencia he was three seconds down, which would have him getting lapped too. But the better CRT bikes are on a steep learning curve. A few months later at Jerez, de Puniet and his ART (which stands for Aprilia Racing Technology) were less than six tenths off the 800cc MotoGP lap record. Meanwhile Edwards returned to Sepang and halved his disadvantage to three seconds. At that kind of pace the fast Aprilia riders should indeed be fast enough to live with – and stuff – a few prototypes. Even Valentino Rossi had better watch out if he’s having a bad day. On the other hand, the slower CRT riders will probably get lapped, which should mean plenty of entertainment as Stoner barges his way past the dawdling backmarkers. But right now there’s no way any CRT bike is going to beat Stoner.

Dorna have already made it clear that they don’t want to continue with two different kinds of bikes delivering different performance. In May they will tell us about MotoGP’s longer-term tech regs. Tere are two options: either speed up the CRT bikes or slow down the prototypes. No prizes for guessing what’s going to happen. Dorna are already talking control ECUs and rev limits to give CRT riders a chance of running at the front. You can imagine what the factories think about that – they spend tens of millions to go racing and Dorna want their bikes to be no quicker than the privateers. Tat’s why Honda have already threatened to quit. MotoGP could be in for a rocky ride this next year or two. Te global economic meltdown is changing the face of the world as a whole and the world championship. Hopefully, what emerges from the confusion will be a healthier series with bigger grids and better racing, even if the bikes won’t be quite as exotic.

James Ellison during his inaugural test of the new Aprilia ART Claiming Rule machine at Jerez in March. But is he going to be able to run with the prototypes?

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Golden Era Superbike Kawasaki ZX-7R

Words Jon Urry Pics Jason Critchell

Working class hero Darren Clarke’s 1996 Kawasaki ZX-7R P1 was just a £1,000 trackday tearaway before he transformed it into a top runner in Golden Era Superbike

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“I bought the ZX-7R in early 2010 from a mate. He did me a good deal because he wanted it to go to a good home as he had owned it from new. Well, a good home where it was going to get abused! “It was a road bike with tax and MoT and the first thing I did with it was an evening trackday for a laugh. Ten it just kind of sat in the garage. I’m one of those people who never really gets around to doing anything with a bike, but then I started buying a few trick bits…” Darren Clarke is exactly the kind of person PB loves – a bike fan with a weakness for eBay and a nose for a bargain. With the ZX-7R sat in his garage, Darren’s resolve finally broke and the ‘trackday bargain’ soon developed into something more substantial. “Once I started buying parts I got carried away,” he admits with a laugh. “When I got the bike it had a full Akrapovic system and carbon air tubes but, best of all, my mate had put kit Kawasaki cams in the motor. Other than that it was a stock ZX-7R.”

What is Golden Era Superbike? Run by Thundersport GB, Golden Era Superbike is a brand new class for 2012. Essentially trying to replicate the golden era of superbike racing the class is for pre-2000 750cc inline fours, 950cc triples and 1000cc V-twins, plus some post-2000 machines where the spec hardly changed. There are no rules about engine tuning but the chassis has to be standard, or from that era at the very least. Forks/front ends from later bikes can be used. More at: www.thundersportgb.com Round 5-6 21-22 April – Mallory Park Round 7 25(Fri)-26 May – Oulton Park GP Round 8-9 23-24 June – Snetterton 200 Round 10-11 28-29 July – Rockingham

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The firsT Time...

A 1000cc inline four won the British superbike Championship “Te first time I rode the Suzuki GSX-R1000 was 2002, the year that 1000cc inline fours were allowed to race in British Superbikes. I had taken the 2001 title on the Ducati 996 and I actually got to ride the Suzuki alongside it before the season started – with Performance Bikes! Te magazine had set up a comparison test between the two bikes at Rockingham circuit. I did ten or twelve laps on the Ducati and then jumped on the GSX-R that James Haydon had been developing for Crescent. At that point I realised just how much work we had to do to turn the Suzuki into a championship contender… “Obviously the Suzuki was very early in its development, but I came away from that test thinking ‘this is going to be a hard year’. Te major issues with the K2 were the lack of midrange power and the chassis. It certainly wasn’t lacking in top-end but after the Ducati, which had loads of power everywhere, the GSX-R was gutless with a brutal top-end. It was also too stiff. I remember when I first crashed it. Te accident came about exiting a corner after the slide due to the repercussions of the tyre gripping and tying the chassis in knots! It threw me right over the headstock. We made the chassis more plyable and after seven or eight months of hard work we eventually had a motor with power everywhere. It all came together at Brands Hatch in June and we became the first 1000 to win a BSB race. We Who is John knew that for 2003 Suzuki had a new GSX-R1000 Reynolds? and we were feeling confident for the season John Reynolds, or JR, is a three times British ahead. Superbike champion “As soon as we tested the GSX-R1000 K3 we who has taken the title knew we had something special. It was smaller on a Kawasaki ZXR750, Ducati 996 and Suzuki than the K2, which suited my five-foot-six height, GSX-R1000. JR has and the engine was stronger. With a race bike you competed in 500GPs need power, but there is no point having it up the with Padgetts on a top of the rev range, you need a strong motor lowYZR500 and WSB with Suzuki and Kawasaki. down so it is rideable and the K3 had this. During He is currently Suzuki’s pre-season testing in Spain we were faster than race director and helps the competition – we were happy and 2003 was develop the GSX-R looking good. Tis all changed at the first round… road bikes. 122

“During practice at the Snetterton opening round we didn’t test a qualifying tyre in the K3. It proved a big mistake: I went out for the first time on a qualifier in Superpole and highsided, breaking my collar bone. If that hadn’t have happened I honestly think we would have taken the 2003 title. Shakey had a tremendous start to the season but if you add up the points I scored in the second half of the season, when I was fit compared to him, I would have taken the title. Although having said that he was protecting a lead, so may have been going easy! I always remember Paul Denning saying at the end of 2003, when we had finished in second place, ‘John, you can’t win the championship on the first race of the year, but you can lose it’. Tis was true of our 2003 season and I was determined to make 2004 our year. “Te 2004 season was a battle between myself on the GSX-R and Michael Rutter on the Fireblade and at various points we both tried to gift each other the championship, we were making so many silly mistakes. Te Ducati was still a great bike but the fours had finally caught up and this was going to be their year. Michael’s Fireblade was as strong as the GSX-R and at some rounds it only came down to tyre choice – his Dunlops versus my Michelins. I think we had the GSXR1000 putting out around 208bhp in 2004 and that’s without any kind of traction control, it was a weapon. “Te season eventually went down to the final round at Donington Park. Michael needed to win and I had to finish in the top six in the first race to take the title. Donington had been a cruel track for Crescent in the past; it is where Chris Walker lost the 2000 title and that stuck in my mind – a championship is never won until it’s won, but I took third and wrapped it up. Crossing the line was such a tremendous feeling, a mixture of relief and accomplishment. It was job done and a huge thank you to the team. “Te 2004 BSB title is very special to me. It was the culmination of three years of blood, sweat and hard work. We broke engines and bones turning the GSX-R1000 into a championship-winning machine and the success was purely down to the determination of everyone at Crescent and Suzuki. Tat GSX-R1000 K4 was the best bike I ever rode in my racing career. It still holds a very special place in my heart today.”

Pics Double Red Interview Jon Urry

by John Reynolds


Donington, 2004: JR celebrates his hardwon victory, securing the championship

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Performance Bikes