Comparison test: Aprilia RS 250, Kawasaki ZX-6 R, Suzuki GSX-R 750, Honda CBR 900 RR, Ducati 916 Biposto, Yamaha YZF 1000 Thunderace

Comparison test, Aprilia RS 250, Ducati 916, Honda Fireblade, Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R, Suzuki GSX-R 750, Yamaha YZF 1000 R

Aprilia RS 250, Kawasaki ZX-6 R, Suzuki GSX-R 750, Honda CBR 900 RR, Ducati 916 Biposto, Yamaha YZF 1000 Thunderace

Meeting point on the Nordschleife: Ex-world champions Jon Ekerold and Toni Mang and the Nürburgring specialists Helmut Dähne and Alois Tost do a few fast laps on six very different sports motorcycles.

Only a few seconds and maybe two or three hundred meters separate Helmut Dähne from the finish line. Then he did it. Forty-seven: this has been the undisputed lap record for motorcycles on the 20.8 kilometer Nordschleife of the Nürburgring since the summer of 1993. Set up on a Honda RC 30 by the ring expert Helmut Dähne, he had to train for a long time. Because the Nordschleife is not a race track that you can memorize so quickly after two or three laps. Its 88 left and 84 right turns can turn your head. No curve is like the other – sometimes pulling together, then rising again, as if this curve were the easiest in the world. Too bad that they cannot all be seen. With a difference in altitude of 286 meters, a round of the Nordschleife is synonymous with a rollercoaster ride. The constant up and down and right and left has made some people sick. To get to know the Nordschleife, you have to drive, drive and drive again – thousands of kilometers in the green hell of the Eifel. The 15-time German rally champion has wound down around 25,000 kilometers on the Nordschleife. About 3000 laps with training. Maybe even more. In short, Helmut was exactly the right man for MOTORRAD to drive the fastest lap possible with six different motorcycles in terms of displacement and engine concept, to see what they really are. The test candidates: an Aprilia RS 250 with 56 HP, a Kawasaki ZX-6 R and one Suzuki GSX-R 750 with 98 HP each, a Honda CBR 900 RR with 128 HP, a Ducati 916 Biposto with 109 HP and a Yamaha YZF 1000 Thunderace with 145 HP. In order to let Helmut Dähne do the fastest laps, but not all the work of the assessment, there were other big names in racing alongside MOTORRAD editor and Supersport 750 racing driver Gerhard Lindner. For example Alois Tost, Dähne’s toughest opponent and later teammate in the Eckert team at the endurance world championship. He is no less experienced when it comes to the Nordschleife, and today he is still an instructor in various Nürburgring perfection training courses. Less experienced in long-distance journeys, but gifted with world championship titles, Toni Mang and Jon Ekerold did not miss the opportunity to accept MOTORRAD’s invitation to ride six of the most modern sports bikes around the ring as they please. The test aria was particularly interesting for Jon Ekerold. After all, the South African, who is now living in Germany, was sitting in the saddle for the first time after 13 years of abstinence from motorcycling and had himself newly dressed from head to toe especially for this campaign. So Jon is in the role of a "returnee." In order to create the same conditions as possible for the assessment of the motorcycles, all bikes were converted to the Metzeler ME Z1, regardless of their series tires. A top sports tire that Helmut knows right down to the last layer of carcass. After all, he helped develop it. As far as the exact recordings of six fast laps on the Nordschleife were concerned, no one other than the 2 D company from Karlsruhe was asked to take over this part with their data recording. This was the only way to later analyze where which motorcycle had made up or lost seconds, and which braked better or accelerated faster. And, in this way, all the speeds and times driven could be recorded, which can be seen on pages 22 and 23 in the illustration of the Nordschleife. Let’s get started, let’s accompany Helmut Dähne, who did the data recording, Alois Tost, Toni Mang and Jon Ekerold on their fast laps around the Nordschleife and watch what the motorcycles do and how they can be driven. Even the entrance to the Hatzenbach is a tough test for man and motorcycle. If you do not choose the right line from the start and possibly turn into the first left of the following bend at too high a speed, you will already have lost the first important seconds at the Hatzenbach exit before it really starts. This is where the GSX-R 750 and ZX-6 R get along best. They can be turned in precisely and easily, and they are the easiest way to tackle tight radii. The Kawasaki is even an idea better than the Suzuki, although it is by no means lighter than the 750. Now the first really fast part of the route follows. After a compression over the bridge to the Qiddelbacher Höhe, the front end of the motorcycles become really light for the first time before it goes through two right-hand bends in one radius. Past the airfield, past the sign "Nürburgring – most beautiful racetrack in the world", after a hilltop it goes straight ahead through a slight depression over to the Schwedenkreuz. A lot of courage and an extremely stable chassis are required when changing pavement, bumpy asphalt and the outward sloping left curve. And there no other in the sextet can compete with the Ducati 916 Biposto. Suspension, damping, perhaps too tight and uncomfortable for normal road use, work perfectly here. Where the softly tuned chassis of the ZX-6 R and the Yamaha Thunderace are harmless, but start to slump, nothing can disturb the Ducati until it comes to full braking on the Aremberg curve. The shortcoming of this course stability: the faster the Ducati is on the road, the more unwieldy it becomes. Beyond 150 km / h you pull the handlebars like an ox when changing lean angles. Now it’s full speed down the Fuchsröhre into an amazing compression and back up to the Adenauer Forst, a confusing right-left combination, in which some already the direct line over the curbs took through the gravel. Tea AT.prilia meanders through the tight windings like a bicycle, before the little Italian goes full throttle through Metzgesfeld and from Kallenhard on about two kilometers of winding curves downhill about 150 meters in altitude. Finding the right line here with a powerful superbike, applying the brakes on Wehrseifen properly and taking the bridge in Breitscheid is damn difficult. Here, a light machine with a smaller displacement and lower performance has often shown the big guys what a rake is. In short, a terrain created for the Aprilia RS 250, which can be squeezed out like a lemon in terms of performance without reaching its limits on the chassis side. Defense soaps such as Breitscheid are also a case for good brakes. Those who cannot show a vehemently and precisely working stopper will lose a lot of ground. The Suzuki is perfect, the systems of the heavy Yamaha, the light Aprilia and the Honda are also good, the Kawa are extremely snappy, and the Ducati’s brakes just feel too doughy to go all out with it. In the case of the GSX-R and the ZX-6R, the results are unusual, because in many previous comparative tests the Kawa brake was considered to be perfect and that of the Suzuki as extremely snappy. Ex-mill, then another short, fast section of the route there Stay outside until you can see the elevated right-hand bend through the mine. This is followed by a three-kilometer uphill stretch. Up to Klostertal there are 185 meters in altitude to overcome, the route is suspect of high speed. Good for those who do a lot. They put the 128 hp CBR and 145 hp Thunderace on the boiler at real speed. 235 km / h for the Yamaha, 232 km / h for the Honda. The rest is more than ten, the Aprilia even almost 65 km / h slower. Let’s stay with the Aprilia for a moment before we return to the leading field. The excellent performance characteristics and the narrow usable speed range of the high-performance two-stroke engine require a watchful eye towards the rev counter. The small V2 cylinder only shows something like bite between 10,500 and 11,500 rpm. Result: a lot of manual work. And the poorly graduated gearbox often leaves the driver in the lurch at corner exits or on the uphill section towards the carousel and wastes valuable seconds. From the Hohe Eight the hour of the high-torque engines strikes. Here you have to drive a clean, round line in the labyrinth of curves between Hedwigshöhe, Wippermann and Eschbach. Brake less and shift even less. A clear case for the powerful four-cylinder of the YZF 1000. The powerful thrust from the lower speed saves gear changes. And as the data recording shows, the heavy racing car more than makes up for the meters lost when accelerating the masses. In general, the Thunderace turns out to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. She is on the move faster than it feels like. She steers in harmoniously, precisely she follows the chosen course, gently – with a slight approach to rocking, but always stable – she hovers over bumps, pulls cleanly through fast corners. A good choice for stress-free and fast laps on the Nordschleife. The CBR 900 RR also offers a high-torque engine and thus a lazy driving style. Only with the wide front tire is it difficult to drive such tight radii as with the GSX-R or ZX-6 R. And on bumps in a sloping position, the Honda with wide tires eels around the steering axis one time after another. In return, the tight coordination of the spring elements is ideal for quick ring use. The CBR lies full on the street. The Honda shows itself from its best side, especially in the Pflanzgarten with its fast combinations of corners. However, the short wheelbase takes its toll. The rear wheel sometimes loses contact with the ground during heavy braking maneuvers. And on the jumping hill and the cross wave in the direction of the dovetail, the front wheel of the super sports car becomes so light that the CBR reacts with knocking the handlebars. The GSX-R 750 is also plagued by such nervous jerks. So intense, in fact, that a steering damper is urgently recommended for future use on the ring – one last time, full concentration. The fast, undulating right-hand bend at the Schwalbenschwanz entrance is just as tough as the concrete slabs in the second left, before continuing towards the Galgenkopf. Its enormous steering precision helps the Suzuki to achieve the safest lines, and the Kawasaki also surprises again with its nimble change of direction. With momentum it’s now towards the Döttinger Höhe. The long straight to the Antonius beech helps the drivers to take a breather. But not the motorcycles. As always, the Yamaha gains momentum the quickest after the last right turn and with a top speed of 246 it can hold its own even ahead of the CBR 900 RR. Even the just 98 hp ZX-6 R comes damn fast with a top speed of 236 km / h. In general, the small four-cylinder inspires with power and revving that so many sporty 750s are unable to achieve. The GSX-R rushes over the Döttinger Höhe at around 20 km / h slower than the top. Up until this point in time, it wasn’t so much that the Suzuki was a throttled version. Because the water-cooled, finely ribbed four-cylinder engine develops so much liveliness, even in the plugged version, that the open version of 128 hp seems to be missing just ten horsepower instead of 30. Just a few seconds and two or three hundred meters separate the motorcycles from their destination. The 7: 49.71 minutes are not in danger. At 8: 03.30, the CBR 900 RR managed the fastest lap on the Nordschleife that day. According to Helmut Dähne, its record time could perhaps have beaten the GSX-R 750. However, only in the unthrottled version.

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Aprilia RS 250, Kawasaki ZX-6 R, Suzuki GSX-R 750, Honda CBR 900 RR, Ducati 916 Biposto, Yamaha YZF 1000 Thunderace

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