Comparison test of supersports: Ducati 998, Honda Fireblade, Kawasaki ZX-9R, Suzuki GSX-R 1000, Triumph Daytona 955i Centennial

Jahn

Comparison test of supersports: Ducati 998, Honda fireblade, Kawasaki ZX-9R, Suzuki GSX-R 1000, Triumph Daytona 955i Centennial

The K question

Five candidates vie for the favor of the Supersport faction, the fight is tough, but ?? in contrast to big politics? always sporty fair.

The K question has been decided. The Bavarian will be. It is different with the very popular super athletes of the big bike faction. The white and blue have nothing to report here. They do have a pretty weighty K series, but when it comes to sportiness they are not far off. So the race is still completely open. Plus, MOTORRAD doesn’t have the K question in the back rooms of power, but ?? in the case of this comparison ?? Ride out in a sporty and fair way on country roads and racetracks.
The fascinating lightness of being: Honda fireblade. Next to the Yamaha YZF-R1 undisputed number one on the list of challengers to the Suzuki GSX-R 1000. In 2001 it suffered a lot from the hammer from Hamamatsu. Both in terms of sales and in terms of ego. Because she lacked performance. Whether you need that extra portion of horsepower from the Suzuki or not, that is a completely different matter. In any box, the fact is that Honda wants to put an end to this unspeakable debate about the model athlete’s lack of horsepower? once and for all. Focus on the dynamometer. 145 hp is the first test copy available in Germany on the Dynojet. And that including a regulated catalytic converter? and sensationally low pollutant emissions. Any questions? This brings big plus points in the new MOTORRAD rating. Because the mere presence of exhaust gas cleaning is no longer evaluated, but the pollutant values ​​determined during the homogenization of the relevant model. And here, for example, the Honda’s NOX value is below the measurable limit.
What can be measured and experienced, however, is the alarmingly clear tendency of the Fireblade to hit the handlebars. Not a completely new problem for the Honda, but in its current form it has never been seen before. Easily comparable to the sneaky fidgeting of the first Yamaha YZF-R1 or a Suzuki TL 1000 S, because the handlebar knocking, or kickback, not only occurs when driving at the limit on the racetrack, but also when driving lively on country roads, preferably the somewhat bumpy ones Category. In addition, reinforced when a passenger is on the halfway comfortable pillion bench. Besides, the whole thing. Honda is building a wonderful motorcycle, is it really improving in every conceivable area? and forgets the steering damper. The Honda technicians are well aware of this deficiency. This can be recognized by the soft tuning of the Fireblade fork, which also has a relatively large amount of negative spring travel. And in the choice of initial tires: The fine Bridgestone BT 012 also has a zero-degree steel belt on the front wheel, which is supposed to counteract the tendency to kickback. What he can at best to some extent. The penalty is immediate: zero points in the Shimmy / Kickback category.
Otherwise, the Honda delivers a really impressive performance. Because even on the country road it makes it unmistakably clear that its developers have achieved something very special: For the first time, a super sports car with over 140 hp is presented with the feather-light handling of a 600. This becomes clear when you first try to sit on the Fireblade. So small, so compact. With a sportier, albeit sufficiently comfortable sitting position and perfect knee grip on the significantly narrower tank. Close your eyes ?? and you think you’re on the CBR 600 FS. What a pleasure to drive this Honda on country roads. If its predecessor was already a handling star, this 900 is even easier to drive; compared to its four rivals, it is in a class of its own (see also box on page 25). Apparently without the slightest effort, almost on its own, it can be circled like a dream, even through tricky turns, only the unchanged hard load change impact when the accelerator is overly impetuous can affect the line. Also annoying: the rather stiff and loud transmission in gears one to three. Almost ideal for the country road: the suspension set-up of the Honda. Not too tight, not too soft, well balanced in everyday use and with enough reserves.
The range of services is also fine. Although its four-cylinder is still not one of the quietest-running engines, the Fireblade has gained significantly in this regard compared to the previous year’s model. A wide usable speed range is available from 3500 rpm. The engine produces its power more smoothly and, compared to the Suzuki, almost unspectacularly, but still with great emphasis: With its brilliant torque values, it even surpasses the GSX-R 1000 in this field.
With another 900, the revision was not as radical as with the Honda, but the modifications show lasting effects. The comeback of the year: Kawasaki ZX-9R. As is well known, the last two years have not been a walk in the park for the Greens. An extremely unpleasant fork flutter plagued the 900s. Blunt brake pads alleviated the problem, but it couldn’t be completely eradicated. Instead of burying its head in the sand, Kawasaki put a lasting hand on the former model athlete, massively strengthening the aluminum frame, among other things. The result was the best 9er of all time, which has already been proven by an excellent top test (MOTORRAD 3/2002). Special talents of the Kawasaki: their balance and suitability for everyday use. It shows off neither the lowest weight nor the most brutal motor, but still drives very handy and precise? and is hardly inferior to the Honda and Suzuki with their performance. However, a slightly higher-speed driving style is preferred. In short: the ZX-9R is a great all-rounder, so to speak the all-round carefree package for this comparison. You are never wrong with her, whether on a vacation tour or a trip to the racetrack, more on that later. It has the best wind protection, excellent light and, despite its bulbous tank, offers a comfortable, decent seating position. Last but not least, do you skimp on gasoline with the carburettor engine? and the manufacturer at the price. At 11,595 euros, it can be considered a very fair offer.
In addition, with its traditional carburetor technology, it dupes the competition, who all rely on manifold injection. Thanks to the secondary air system and an unregulated catalytic converter, its emission values ​​are state-of-the-art, and with its smooth response and load change behavior, the Kawasaki is even ahead of the other four. Also beats the Triumph Daytona 955i, which has always been a role model in this regard.
There are plenty of examples of the fact that doing without a basic model upgrade can be a big hit, especially with super athletes. But it doesn’t have to. The measure of all things: Suzuki GSX-R 1000. At least in terms of performance. Last year he showed everyone who is boss in the ring, excelled in the Endurance World Championship, won the title in the Superstock DM. And would like to continue this winning streak. As before, the Suzuki is characterized by a drivability that has never been seen before for this performance category. Even and especially on the country road. No other in this comparison can be moved so casually off the racetrack and exudes so much sovereignty as the GSX-R 1000. Power cruising in its most beautiful form, with an easily controllable performance from the idle level without breaking into the rev limiter. Fan-tas-tic. All of this feels even more impressive while driving than its outstanding performance values ​​can document. She does almost everything on the country road in one gear: the sixth. Whereby on the Suzuki you are still traveling very, very quickly, even when driving at low revs.
It has never been the handiest. But it shines with one of the well-known excellent driving stability, kickback is not an issue thanks to a standard steering damper and comes pretty close to the downright stoic Ducati 998 on this point. But it is much more willing to compromise with its chassis tuning than the premium racer from Bologna, offers significantly more comfort and thus suitability for everyday use.
The keyword for the Triumph Daytona. Quo vadis, triumph? One step forward, two backward, this is the impression the British are currently doing. At least as far as the flagship Daytona is concerned. Opinions may still be divided about the changed design. The return to the single-sided swing arm, which has been sorely missed by many, for the time being only for the special Centennial model, may be seen as a reparation, in no way a step backwards. However, the vote of the triplet was only partially successful. This engine could act as an ideal compromise between a modern V2 and a four-cylinder. But this test copy does not. In the hunt for top performance, the Triumph engineers were very successful with measured and very respectable 143 hp. Compared to the last test (MOTORRAD 13/2001), this Daytona put another two hp more on the dyno role. The downside: From a purely subjective point of view, you don’t notice much of this performance. In the lower speed range, the Triumph feels very anemic, which has a negative effect on the pulling power, in addition, its engine only responds very slowly at times, but then in combination with a hefty load change. Gone are the glorious days of the first Daytona models, which pushed silky-soft, powerful and incomparable out of the lower rev range, which almost led one to believe that the three-cylinder had more than 160 hp.
It makes up a lot of ground with its great and homogeneous handling, here it has clearly gained in comparison to the original Daytona. It collected bonus points with its high suitability for everyday use, as it is similar to the Kawasaki. Wind protection, seating comfort and a sufficient chest of drawers chassis set-up in combination with a smooth-running and economical engine are trumps that stand out. Not to be outweighed with points: the beguiling sound of your triplet, thank god the long rear silencer has not changed anything.
Beguiling? Still captivating everything even after many years? Welcome to the fascination department, welcome to the racetrack: Ducati 998. Because compromises only hurt. To put it in a friendly way: it is actually too good to drive on the country road. Which is why the description of the same is reduced to a minimum. Because compared to the others, the Ducati is simply too uncompromisingly fixated on one thing: winning races. Point. Their points deficit on the country road is correspondingly high. The seating position is too uncomfortable, the basic set-up of the chassis is too hard, and the inspection costs and purchase price are too high. That, in turn, doesn’t really interest a Ducatisti. Above all, he wants one thing: to do a quick lap on the home track or the racing track.
And that’s exactly where it belongs. Here it justifies the high price, the picture is reversed, almost everything fits like a glove on the Ducati. Last but not least, the seating position that is oriented far forward with the low handlebars. Forget the wind protection so sorely missed on the country road. To do this, you have to enjoy the incredible stability of the chassis, which offers by far the greatest reserves and gives the pilot an incredible amount of feedback. Bad handling? Yes and no. The Ducati demands a hard and clear steering impulse? and then smoothly and with almost surgical precision moves its radius. In addition, it effortlessly allows high cornering speeds and challenges them. Lean angle changes would of course be even more homogeneous if Ducati were to mount a 180 tire on the 5.5 inch rim instead of the 190. In addition, it would certainly not be detrimental to the handling.
Another plus point of the V2: From the apex of the curve you can think of hearty throttle again, the much more vehement propulsion of the modified Testastretta engine is enjoyment without regrets. This engine works softer than the old 996 engine, with significantly less mechanical noise. It pushes the Ducati with its 124 hp gently, but firmly and without a noticeable break in towards the next corner. Then of course there follows pure disenchantment, because the presentation of the Brembo four-piston brake system is anything but intoxicating. A throwback to old 916 times. It requires a lot of hand strength and leaves a lot to be desired in terms of dosage. The Tokico six-piston system of the GSX-R 1000 scores similarly on average.
As far as its engine characteristics are concerned, the Suzuki also has a special position on the racetrack. This cannonball would like to catapult itself to the next braking point at the speed of sound? At least that’s how the driver who struggles with a violent adrenaline rush feels. In destroying the excess energy ?? and there are plenty of them ?? the GSX-R requires a lot of sensitivity. Hectic pace, i.e. too hard downshifts in connection with not enough double-declutching, she likes to acknowledge with more or less strong rear wheel stamping. Turning in works perfectly with the stable Suzuki, it tends to stand up much less when braking than the Kawasaki and the Honda. When accelerating home, the brute GSX-R demands the policy of steady hands. The engine works well, but every turn on the ultra-powerful Suzuki turns into a hike on a very fine line. It still demands a bit more concentration than the other four. In the long run, it can also get on the nerves of experienced racers. Exploring your full potential and then implementing it in lap times, which was unfortunately not possible in Calafat due to a violent storm, that is and remains a matter for professionals. Every amateur racer should be this self-critical.
For the ambitious sports driver group, therefore, an alternative worth considering: the Kawasaki ZX-9R. The all-round genius also cuts a fine figure on the racetrack, and with her good-natured manner takes even novices away from the fear of the first time. Big plus point: the fine response behavior of your engine, which enables you to apply the gas very early in a lean position. In addition, it does not compete as vehemently as the Honda or even the Suzuki at below 6000 rpm. Here it is almost like a 600. Above this mark, it then burns the performance fireworks so typical of a Kawasaki, a wide, usable speed range that can be fully exploited on the racetrack. Driven by a professional on the last furrow, it doesn’t have that much reserves, the comfortably tuned fork could use harder springs and more damping. Drivers who like to work with a lot of physical activity also feel restricted in their freedom of movement by the wide tank and would also want lower handlebars. But all in all, the basis is right. The brakes on the ZX-9R, for example, are finally a real showpiece again, decelerate precisely, vehemently and easily. In this comparison only surpassed by the sensational presentation of the Honda fireblade, which also has Nissin four-piston calipers on the front wheel. Although she nervously lifts the stern when braking hard, turning in is child’s play. Unsurpassed: the striking handling of the Honda, which allows razor-sharp, tight bend radii, in this point it connects a kind of soulmate with the Yamaha YZF-R6. The Honda whistles through chicanery, which is easy to hear and see, but at the same time requires a knowledgeable hand because it does not easily put up with corrections to the line like the good-natured Kawasaki.
Forgiving mistakes, that is also an outstanding characteristic of Triumph. It has never been a burner for the last hundredth of a second, and nothing has changed in the current version. The incorruptible scales document the shortcoming: Compared to the feather-light Honda, they carry a whopping 21 kilograms more with them. The extra weight is particularly noticeable when braking hard, the Daytona‘s fork then reaches its limits on waves. Nevertheless, it is also great fun on the racetrack, which the sluggish response behavior in the lower engine speed range and the gnarled and loud gears unfortunately reduce a bit.
I.In the sympathy rating, Triumph is still well ahead, the K-question is something others decide among themselves? for the time being anyway. At the beginning of March the cards were reshuffled, then the Yamaha YZF-R1, model year 2002, made its claims to power. Until then, Honda’s Fireblade can look forward to its place in the sun.

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Comparison test of supersports: Ducati 998, Honda fireblade, Kawasaki ZX-9R, Suzuki GSX-R 1000, Triumph Daytona 955i Centennial
The K question

Giant slalom

The magic word that turns peaceful rounds of regulars to the noisy bazaar of opinion: handling. What is it really about? In order to put an end to the assumptions, MOTORRAD has installed a handling course. A measuring section around 300 meters long, studded with pylons, monitored by a stopwatch and light barrier, no longer allows excuses. Motorcycles that wag through here at more than 100 km / h, while being stable and not wasting an inch of space with razor-sharp steering precision, mostly belong to the class of super athletes. The test driver’s subjective impressions are split into two parts: on the one hand, the steering force is assessed, which primarily results from the chassis geometry, the gyroscopic forces and the weight or center of gravity. Wide handlebars, for example on enduros, of course have clear advantages here, but the smoothest steering is of no use if the steering movements are only transmitted with a delay. Now is the time for athletes. Torsion-resistant telescopic forks, precise steering sports tires with handy, pointed outlines and a tightly sprung and dampened chassis are the basis for the test pilot to precisely thread the bike through the course when tearing and tugging without knocking around the pylons. So it is no wonder for the top test team that Ducatis 998 is pulled like a string and burns to the highest speed without annoying rocking and only loses time in the narrow, serpentine turning point. Honda’s featherweight Fireblade achieves a lower top speed, but the bottom line is that it marks the best time due to the ease of use at the turning point. The Kawasaki nines were also good: second best time, no problem in the narrow section of the track and a lot of speed ?? these have always been the strengths of the Greens. Amazingly, the Triumph, which, despite the highest total weight, waggles jaggedly, sags deep into the progressive spring area, but remains sufficiently stable with a lot of damping. And the stable Suzuki? Here, like in real life, has the worst handling. This is to a small extent due to the non-adjustable, stiff steering damper. And so the points for "handling" already determined in the test protocol are finally confirmed by the course. Werner Koch

1st place – Honda fireblade

The Honda offers handling that is unique for this class, its engine has significantly improved in performance and smoothness. Other plus points: brakes suspect to be referenced, G-Kat and the very good processing quality. Minuses: the load change behavior and the missing steering damper. With less kickback, even more would be possible on the racetrack.

2nd place – Suzuki GSX-R 1000

The Suzuki finished second. Unchanged in a class of its own: its powerful engine and stable chassis. In everyday use it does well, on the racetrack it belongs to the first class. In need of improvement: the exhaust gas cleaning (no G-Kat despite the injection system) and the dull, only moderately controllable braking system.

3rd place

Without the fork flutter, the Kawasaki celebrates a great comeback, the best all-rounder in this comparison. With its great brakes and the soft, responsive, powerful engine, it is equally suitable for a casual lap on the home route, an extended holiday tour or a lot for race training. In the race track standings she keeps up with the leaders.

4th Place

Triumph should place less emphasis on top performance than on homogeneous performance characteristics and good response behavior of their three-cylinder. Then there would be much more to it than the title "Master of Hearts". Still great: the everyday suitability of the good-natured Daytona, its above-average handling ?? and last but not least, their great sound.

5th place

The radical Ducati 998 beats the more potent four-cylinder engines on the racetrack. She justifies her high price with the best chassis, which leaves nothing to be desired even with professionals, and her strengthened, modified Testastretta-V2. That is why she forgets the last place in the everyday 1000 point evaluation with a smile.

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