A bike is only as fast as its rider

Published: 01 November 2000

THERE’S an orange bike, a red bike, a purple bike, a green bike and, of course, a blue and white bike. They’re all parked up on paddock stands with mechanics milling around them, fitting tyre warmers to the shiny slicks and filling the tanks with fuel so volatile it makes your eyes water.

I’m stood talking to our guest tester for the day. A bloke you’ll all know well from his battles in the WSB championship over the last few years. He’s just calming down after a few laps to familiarise himself with Cadwell Park in his Honda Accord Type R, a race-rep saloon car.

You’ll get the idea of his mettle when I tell you how he was handbraking the car into the Club hairpin, and wheelspinning it all the way to the first corner.

Today, it’s cold and a bit damp and he’s wearing a black woolly hat with flames licking up the sides and a big, black jacket.

This bloke hasn’t seen a real winter for the past 10 years, so he has come prepared. He races during summer and, come the end of the season, returns to his native New Zealand where October, November and December equal barbecues and sunbathing. In fact, he was due to return there this evening, but he changed his flight when we invited him to Lincolnshire.

Knowing his team are based just down the road in Louth, I figure he’ll have ridden this track before. " It was back in 1995, on the RC45. I can’t remember much about it, but I remember wheelieing all the way down the back straight and up the hill and loving every minute of it. "

So let me get this straight. The last time he rode here was five years ago on a 170bhp factory World Superbike. The last time I rode here was about three months ago, on a BMW R1100S, which would struggle to make 90bhp. The only time the Beemer wheelied was on the way up the Mountain, when I encouraged it up with the clutch, followed by a rollocking from a marshal.

He’s been a pro racer for the best part of 10 years; I’ve tested bikes for the past four years, done half a season in the CB500 Cup and about 10 club races. He’s about 5ft 6in and weighs around 10 stone. I’m 6ft 4in and weigh 15 stone. We’re two riders from totally different backgrounds and different sides of the planet, whose worlds are about to collide. Why? Because we’ve invited Aaron Slight to test the top British superbikes (with the exception of Red Bull Ducati, who couldn’t make this test).

Parked in front of us, we have the title-winning INS Ducati ridden to victory by Neil Hodgson, Chris Walker’s National Tyres Suzuki GSX-R, James Toseland’s Vimto Honda SP-1, Steve Plater’s Total oils Kawasaki ZX-7RR and Steve Hislop’s Virgin Mobile Yamaha R7. If they’d all brought along a sample of their sponsors’ wares we could surf the net, get some tyres, have a fruity drink, top the oil up and make a call to tell everyone all about it. They haven’t, so I’ll proceed.

After a few of my own laps in a car, the track is rapidly drying. The marshals have swept the leaves from the already tricky hairpin and my fears are starting to disappear.

After a few set-up photographs with Slight following our car, as well as all the essential static pictures (which need to be taken well before anyone presses a starter button) we head for a coffee break with the teams.

After a bit of a briefing session about what we’re going to do and the all-important stuff like which way the gearboxes go (all the bikes are in race shift, including Walker’s, which he normally uses in a road pattern) Slight’s concerned about which tyres we’re running. He’s met with the answer " Dunlop 501 slicks " , but as he’s used Michelin race rubber all his life it doesn’t help him settle. Vimto’s Phil Borley explains that if they were racing today they would use Dunlops, which puts Slight’s mind at rest. Mine, too.

After a coffee the teams head back up to the paddock to make sure the bikes are ready and the Kawasaki guys warm up the ZX-7RR then hand it to Slight.

He heads out down the farm track that pretends to be the access road to the circuit and gets on the smooth Tarmac. The leaves are still coming down at the hairpin and as Slight disappears up the hill, past the waving marshal, the ZX-7 screams as the shiny slick spins on the damp vegetation. It doesn’t seem to bother him as he keeps it pinned and disappears into the first bend with the exhaust wailing.

As he comes into the hairpin on the first lap he’s a bit late on the brakes. With the front tyre still not thoroughly warm and the track full of damp patches, the tyre locks and he is forced to put his feet down as the hairpin looms into view. He makes it around OK, but it doesn’t bode well for my outing.

After 10 laps, Slight comes in and hands me the bike for my session. He seems nonplussed by the incident, which had my heart and those of the Kawasaki team in our mouths. I ask him what he thinks. " It’s the first time I’ve ridden a non-factory bike for 10 years, the first time I’ve ridden a four-cylinder bike for a year and the track’s damp. So it took me a while to get used to it. " We decide to have a proper chat after I’ve done a handful of laps.

I’m handed the bike and warned of the lack of steering lock. There’s less than even a Ducati Monster, so it might be a bit tricky getting to the start line. With that in mind I take a wide line on to the farm track, keeping the motor ticking over before winding it up when I reach the Tarmac.

Like most race bikes, the motor is fluffy until about 5000rpm. Then it kicks in, building progressively up towards 14,000rpm. As it’s the first bike here that I’ve ridden it feels bloody quick, but the handlebars are really wide and the bike feels big. Dare I say it, almost like the road bike.

Steve Plater, who’s ridden this bike in his first year in BSB, is a lot shorter than me, so I look like an outsized giant on the thing. But it’s more roomy than Hislop’s R7 I rode earlier in the year.

As I tip into the first part of the right-hand uphill climb towards the back end of the circuit, the bike feels really neutral. It turns quickly compared to the road-going ZX-7R, but not that quick for a racer.

As I pull out towards the telegraph pole which signals the entry to Charlies, it’s straight in towards the kerb and on the gas as it pulls through fourth, hits fifth and sixth gear as the bars waggle and the bike comes over the crest. I try to duck my head behind the screen as much as possible, but it’s tricky as it’s built for someone a foot shorter.

The next bend is dealt with without drama and then we’re into Chris Curve. I get a bit worried by my lean angle (for my standards) and cut the throttle a tad as the bike wants to run wide. It holds its line as I haul down the gears into the Gooseneck and a little wiggle from the bars is all I need to deal with as I charge towards Mansfield. The exit to this bend is off-camber and full of damp patches, so I ease off the throttle on the approach to the hairpin. Because the corner is still damp, I can’t carry a lot of lean angle and I almost have to steer my way around the corner. The only problem is the lock – it barely has any and I just about get around.

After a few laps I pull into the pits, snicking into first in the process. Thing is, I seem to have used up all my concentration on the track, and as the speed drops I lapse into autopilot. I forget about the race-style gearbox and stick it in third, before letting the clutch out and stalling the bike. Nob! As there’s no electric start I’m forced to push it back up the hill to the paddock where the teams are set up. There’s a laugh as I come past the Virgin Yamaha truck. They think I’ve stacked it, as do the concerned Kawasaki mechanics. Their grimaces are replaced by smiles as I breathlessly explain my novice error.

Luckily, Slight’s out on the Vimto Honda, so I get the chance for a breather. After about 10 minutes and a couple of cigarettes Slight comes in and we talk through the Kawasaki.

" The ZX-7 was really stable, but it felt a bit big, with a wide tank and bars, " he says. " The engine’s smooth off the bottom, but it’s well down on power compared to the WSB bikes. The weight bias

was very good and the suspension soaked up the bumps, but the brakes weren’t that good. I think some different pads would work better and give them more bite. Having ridden the Kwak I can understand why it’s not a front-runner in the series. It hasn’t got what it takes to win. "

While Slight’s keen to get on the next bike, I try to nail him down for some thoughts on the Honda to see what I can expect. I’m particularly keen to hear how he rates the kitted

V-twin next to the factory bike he has been riding all season. " I’ve heard bad reports about this bike, so I expected it to be a bit of a duffer, " he said. " But it’s far from being a piece of sh*t. The powerband is very narrow and it only really goes between 9500rpm and 11,500rpm, then it’s all over. But it’s a lot better than I expected and the engine is a lot stronger than the Kawasaki.

" The chassis isn’t as stable as the Kawasaki’s, but it changes direction much faster and it’s really sweet at the Gooseneck chicane. You can really chuck it in. Even on bumps the suspension copes

really well and wouldn’t get upset when hard on the power. The brakes are also excellent, and you can really haul it in hard.

" As I said, it’s not the bag of crap I expected, and the Vimto team must have done a lot of work to get it this good. It’s still a long way off the Castrol Honda WSB bike, but a well-sorted privateer bike. "

With that in mind I take my turn on the SP-1. First things first, electric start. No messing about with bump-starting or winding the rear tyre up to speed on a generator with this baby. Just push the standard-issue SP-1 button and its high-level Arrow silencers bark into life. After the Kawasaki it feels absolutely tiny. That’s because it is tiny, just like the road bike it’s based on.

Compared to the Kwak it also feels like a grunt monster, and the chassis is divine and full of feel. I thought the road bike was good, but this thing is in a different league. It soaks up bumps like they don’t exist and lets you get away with ludicrous lean angles. Gun it out of corners and the bike pulls hard and strong, but the real power is between 9500rpm and 11,000rpm. You can nail it on the brakes and flick it in on to its side so fast that it catches you out if you’re not careful.

As I come down the downhill left-hander at Mansfield, I sense something near me and see Slight out of the corner of my eye. He’s on Walker’s Suzuki, but instead of flying past he just sits behind me for a lap, far enough away that I can’t see him, but close enough to let me hear the whining GSX-R. As if I’m not nervous enough riding Toseland’s race bike, I

now have one of the world’s best riders noting my every move. And instead of impressing him with my faultless lines, I start fluffing everything.

Knowing I’m lapping around seven seconds slower than my riding partner doesn’t do much for my confidence, and as things really start going to pot I decide I have provided enough entertainment for the Kiwi and come into the pits.

Slight follows me in, grinning from ear to ear. It’s a combination of satisfaction from riding the 750 and anticipation at getting his hands on the Virgin R7. But first he has to tell me what he thinks about the Suzuki. And I’m quite surprised by what he has to say. " Knowing where Chris finished in the championship I expected a lot more performance from this bike, " he said.

" Like all the bikes, the suspension felt like it was doing a real good job and on this track the WSB

SP-1 would have been all over the place as the suspension’s so firm. The handling is very neutral and stable, but I felt the rear wheel locked a bit early and it was a bit

hard to open the throttle sometimes – it felt as if the

fuel injection wasn’t quite working. I did really like the brakes, though, and they had loads of feel.

" Walker’s results are massively impressive considering it’s obviously way down on power compared to the Ducati. He’s definitely done a good job this year. It’s not a slow bike by any means, but obviously works much better for Walker than me. Once you get going the bike gets into a good flow and rewards hard riding. It suits Walker and his style, but he has to ride like this or risk finishing 10th. "

As Slight heads out on the Yamaha, Walker’s head mechanic Dave Hagen gives it a final once-over, takes the tyre warmers off and flicks the " battery on/off " button to the former. Hagen tries to remove the seat pad Walker uses to push himself forward on the bike, but it’s stuck on for life so I’ll have to put up with it. I’m sure I’ll cope!

I squeeze myself into the seat, lifting my aching legs on to the high rearsets, pull the gearshift up one into first and get a push from Hagon, well aware that I’m about to take out his baby. With this in mind I slip the clutch out, but it doesn’t start. Hagen shouts: " Just dump it, don’t slip it! " Sorry Dave, I thought I was.

After another two embarrassing clutch incidents it eventually fires, I give it a couple of blips and then slowly engage the clutch before chugging down pit lane. I manoeuvre myself on to the track, hook second gear and nail it up the hill.

The first impression is that the front wheel is too close for comfort. The set-up puts your body so far over the front that you feel as if you’re falling off.

After Slight’s comments I’m surprised to find the bike a lot more driveable than I thought. Even in the middle of the rev range, it drives out of corners nicely compared to the Kawasaki, but really gets going at the top-end. I can see why Walker’s style works so well on it. The power hits at the top and the trick rev-counter leaves its mark after each shift to show what revs you last changed gear at. For me it’s about 13,000rpm, even though there’s a bit more to come. That’s scary enough.

Once I get my head around the fact that this is Chris Walker’s bike, and the one on which he lost the title at Donington, I start to get in the groove.

Getting the power on as hard as I dare down the back straight, the Suzuki sounds eerily like the road bike, even if in reality the two are as different as

Mo Mowlam and Jennifer Aniston. On the way up the hill I tap the ridiculously sensitive gear shift and the bike wiggles around a bit as I crest the top, before I roll off the throttle for the run into Park Corner. There’s masses of feedback from the front as I drift out to the kerb before winding on the power on the exit.

Going into the Gooseneck I hang off before barrelling it over to the right-hand kerb and feeling the bars waggle as I get on the gas towards Mansfield.

Into the braking zone, the anchors feel good and I pitch it in faster than I have done on any other bike – ever – before winding on the power again as I belt towards the hairpin. Once there I’m going so slow the bike is stuttering through a lack of revs, so I slip the clutch to drive it out and I’m back on it.

Now I’ve settled into the groove I start to go a bit quicker, stringing together three consistent lap times on the still-damp circuit. How do I know? Because the onboard lap-timer tells me my last three laps are within 0.1s of each other. After another few laps I pull in and thank Hagen for letting me ride the bike. His reply? " No problem, thanks for bringing it back in one piece. "

Though I hadn’t seen him on the track, Slight’s already back in with the Yamaha and he seems well impressed. While I smoke and clean my misting glasses, Slighty looks focused – he seems to be wearing his race face.

I’m especially keen to find out what he thinks of the Virgin bike as I rode it earlier in the year and it’s nice to see if you’re on the money with a WSB hero. He said: " That was really good fun. It’s quite clearly a race bike not a road bike as it’s small, nimble and does everything right.

" The motor’s not really any better than any of the other four-cylinder bikes here, but it just seems better set-up. It’s easy and accurate on and off the throttle, but the power delivery is a bit flat. The chassis is the best here. I loved the front end and the way it turned and it had lots of feel compared to the Castrol SP-1. My only real question is that I’d love to see what this bike’s like with another 20bhp. Have you got Yamaha’s WSB team phone number? "

High praise indeed.

Still, from what I remember, the R7 scared the life out of me last time round when I rode it at a track day because it was so much faster than anything else, tuned R1s included. So I was a bit surprised to hear that he thought it was a bit flat... Now it’s time to be scared again.

The bike feels familiar straight away. I’m all elbows and knees, but it still feels positive and direct. It’s the kind of bike you know that no matter how long you ride it for or how good the conditions are, you’ll never reach its limits. At least I won’t.

The bike turns into the first corner so fast it’s ridiculous. The chassis delights and leaves me breathless, more so than any of the other bikes I’ve ridden today.

Slight might think the power is flat, but any bike that wheelies out of the Gooseneck chicane every lap isn’t that bad to me.

Though I could carry on riding the bike all day, I’m well aware of the time we’ve got left. We need to do more pictures and, more importantly, get a go on the INS Ducati. There’s no way I want to miss that.

As I get back to the pits, Slight goes out on the 996 and I watch the No1 plate disappear up the track. Thank god for that. I’m getting really tired and need a rest. Unfit? Yes, but you try doing 50 laps on Britain’s best superbikes...

Slight’s keen to put in some laps on the Duke as, unbelievably, he’s never ridden one before. While I wait, the Kawasaki boys ask if I’d like to ride their bike again as the datalogger didn’t record my details properly first time around. It’d be rude not to.

By the time I get back, the INS bike is already in its tyre warmers and Slight is raving about the bike to Hodgson’s mechanics.

As I get on I realise I’m fulfilling a dream. This is the same bike I’ve watched all year bashing fairings with Walker. But more than that, it’s the same spec as the 996 which Carl Fogarty won his last WSB title on in 1999. I felt honoured to ride each bike here, but the Ducati is something extra special.

I’m used to Ducatis being well-finished inside and I laugh to myself as I note the bare carbon-fibre inside the nose fairing and behind the tall screen. Then I remember this bike doesn’t exactly need to be finished like a road bike. It just needs to do one thing and that is what it’s done already – win, win, win.

As I ease the throttle on I instantly settle into a rhythm much better than on the others. Hodgson’s taller than many riders and as the bike is set up for him it fits me much better, too. Diddy man Slight, on the other hand, finds it a bit of a stretch.

I settle in for a lap until I’m confident about what the tyres are doing and then wind it up a bit. It still feels like a 996SPS, and rides like a 996SPS. But it’s more extreme than any 996SPS I’ve ever ridden. Power comes in everywhere, no matter whether you’re pulling 8000rpm or 10,000rpm.

I peel into the fast right-hander before the straight. Remembering just what it is I’m riding (a 168bhp twin!) I wind on the throttle and it fires me down the straight, shouting angrily from its twin pipes.

At about 160mph I sit up from behind the screen, hold on tight and blip down the gears into third. It turns fast compared to the road bike, but not as fast as the R7 or VTR. And before I know it I’m in the corner and out again in a wave of V-twin staccato and on to the next apex.

I lean it farther than I have all day, feel the bumps through my hands, brain, feet and bum and set it up for the Gooseneck chicane. Down one gear, then in. It flicks from right to left smoothly and quickly then lifts its wheel on the way out. I leave the braking a bit late as the front wheel touches down. To my surprise the bike starts waggling around as the back wheel lifts a bit. I freeze for an instant then get it back together and turn in, feeling the front tyre biting the now totally dry surface. I chuck it into first gear, into the hairpin, down on my knee then get the best line I’ve had all day on the way out, conscious the INS team are watching and hearing my every move. The power’s on, the front wheel is up and I short-shift up the hill and back for another one of my allocated 10 laps. Orgasmic? Oh, yes. Now I know why Hodgson always has a smile on his face.

Slight’s waiting to do the last picture of the day with Hodgson and Walker’s bikes, so we swop over and my BSB dreams come true. Conscious that the bikes have a very short lifespan before they boil over, we head out straight away. This time I’m following Slight. Onlookers could be forgiven for thinking it’s a private re-run of the last round, but featuring Slight and Potter instead of Hodgson and Walker. Luckily he’s being easy on me for the photoshoot, and it’s not long before we’re cruising back into the pits for the final time.

So what does Slight think to the Ducati? I’ll let him wrap up. " It was the last bike I tested and it’s clearly in a different league to the rest because it had so much power. The engine was everything the other bikes’ weren’t. It had torque, it had revs and was stronger all the way through. The brakes didn’t quite do it for me, though, and I’d have liked to try different pads. The chassis wasn’t as good as the R7’s either, though it had a pretty good balance between stability and nimbleness. But as you might have guessed by the amount of laps I did, I really enjoyed it.

" It’s clear that the best bike won the series, though I’m not sure what the Red Bull Ducatis are like. But I’m taking nothing away from Neil. To win at that level with a bike as powerful as this you’ve still got to be a great rider. But it’s not as powerful as the Castrol SP-1. "

I can’t wait to sling my leg over that one...

INS DUCATI 996

NEIL HODGSON’S title-winning British superbike is almost identical to the one on which Carl Fogarty won the WSB championship in 1999.

It was one of only two Ducati Corse bikes in the British series - the other one was ridden by Niall Mackenzie - and it shows. Its 168bhp at 12,300rpm makes this easily the most powerful bike in the test.

Check out the works Ohlins suspension and the Brembo brakes. Though not the latest kit used by the factory WSB team, it can be set to cope with every bump on every bend at every British circuit.

The dash is a mass of information. The digital Magneti-Marelli instruments show everything from revs to lap times and oil temperature. It can even be tailored to suit a rider. It also has three different settings – race, warm-up and practice – to show different information.

Hodgson’s screen is also taller than those found on most other bikes because he is taller than most other riders.

Specification

Engine: Liquid-cooled, 996cc (98mm x 66mm), 60mm fuel injection throttle bodies, three injectors per cylinder, programmable ignition system and fuel injection, WSB-spec radiator. 6 gears

Chassis: Tubular steel trellis

Front suspension: Ohlins 46mm inverted forks, adjustments for pre-load, compression and rebound damping

Rear suspension: Ohlins single shock with rising-rate linkage, adjustments for pre-load, compression, rebound damping and ride height

Tyres: Dunlop 501 slicks; 120/70 x 16.5 front, 190/50 x 16.5 rear

Brakes: Brembo; 2 x 320mm front discs with 4-piston calipers, 200mm rear disc with 2-piston caliper

VIRGIN YAMAHA R7

THE Yamaha seems tiny in comparison to the other four-cylinder bikes. The R7 probably has the most advanced four-cylinder four-stroke motor in the world, as well as one of the most complex fuel injection systems. With more than 70 settings for each cylinder, the bike can be minutely tuned for every track.

Again, the components that catch the eye are the anodised factory Ohlins suspension paired with massive four-pot Brembo brakes. The black-painted frame is alloy and with the WSB-spec swingarm it is massively braced and far stronger than stock.

While most of the other bikes in the series have the latest digital dash, the R7’s is a bit of a disappointment purely because it looks so stock. A rev counter and temperature gauge look like they come straight off an R1. The only gizmo is the AstraTech reader, which allows the rider to see his lap times, which are logged by a trackside beacon.

Specification

Engine: Liquid-cooled, 749cc (72mm x 46mm) 20v dohc four-stroke in-line four. Mitsubishi programmable fuel injection system with WSB-spec ignition map and 50mm throttle bodies, kit radiator, lightened and balanced crank. 6 gears

Chassis: Aluminium twin-spar from race kit with works aluminium swingarm and adjustable wheelbase

Front suspension: Ohlins 43mm inverted forks, adjustments for pre-load, compression and rebound damping

Rear suspension: Ohlins single shock with rising-rate linkage, adjustments for pre-load, compression, rebound damping and ride height

Tyres: Dunlop 501 slicks; 120/70 x 16.5 front, 190/50 x 17 rear

Brakes: Brembo; 2 x 298mm front discs with 4-piston calipers, 245mm rear disc with 4-piston caliper

NATIONAL TYRES SUZUKI GSX-R750

CHRIS WALKER’S Suzuki may be marginally down on power compared to the INS bike, with " only " 163bhp, but it is still one of the best machines out there.

The latest Showa suspension, Brembo brakes and a vast array of magnesium and titanium parts make it a world apart from the road-going GSX-R.

Though the frame may look similar to a road version, it has a massive amount of internal bracing to stop flex and increase rigidity. The same is true of the swingarm - the faultless welding gives an idea of the strength of it.

The brakes are massively powerful twin 320mm discs, and they need to be to cope with Walker’s trademark last-minute braking moves.

Like the Ducati, the cockpit is an information oasis. The digital MoTec dash even has the name Stalker across the bottom and features a mass of different readouts, which are all available at the touch of a button.

Specification

Engine: Liquid-cooled, 749cc (72mm x 46mm) 16v dohc four-stroke in-line four. Pectel programmable ignition system, factory Suzuki 45mm twin injector throttle bodies, titanium crankshaft,

WSB-spec radiator. 6 gears

Chassis: Aluminium twin-spar

Front suspension: Showa 46mm inverted forks, adjustments for pre-load, compression and rebound damping

Rear suspension: Showa single-shock with rising-rate linkage, adjustments for pre-load, compression, rebound damping and ride height

Tyres: Dunlop 501 slicks; 120/70 x 17 front, 180/55 x 17 rear

Brakes: Brembo; 2 x 320mm front discs with 4-piston calipers, 220mm rear disc with 2-piston caliper

TOTAL KAWASAKI ZX-7RR

THE Kawasaki is the oldest bike here, but it still bristles with technology good enough to make your mouth water. The engine design dates back to around 1994 but still tops the speed traps at most circuits.

Most noticeable on the bike are the huge six-piston AP Racing calipers, radially-mounted to reduce flex and heat build-up.

Radially-mounted calipers were designed by Brembo for the factory Ducati of Carl Fogarty, but most other companies have followed with their own designs. The other British teams all have conventional brake set-ups, but most teams in WSB have switched to the radial system.

The WP front suspension is also out of the ordinary because the upside-down forks are 50mm wide. This is around 4mm thicker than the other superbikes and is a departure from the norm as most teams use slimmer forks to reduce weight. The thicker struts allow thinner sidewalls, but stop too much flex under braking. Not all riders like them, and Ducati, for example,have thinned their forks in recent years because it gave more feel to riders.

Specification

Engine: Liquid-cooled, 748cc (73mm x 44.7mm) 16v dohc four-stroke in-line four. Four x 41mm Keihin flat-slide carbs, programmable ignition system, steel crank, WSB-spec radiator, magnesium clutch casing. 6 gears

Chassis: Aluminium twin-spar

Front suspension: WP 50mm inverted forks, adjustments for pre-load, compression and rebound damping

Rear suspension: WP single-shock with rising-rate linkage, adjustments for pre-load, compression, rebound damping and ride height

Tyres: Dunlop 501 slicks; 120/75 x 16.5 front, 195/60 x 16.5 rear

Brakes: AP; 2 x 320mm front discs with 6-piston calipers, 200mm rear disc with 2-piston caliper

VIMTO HONDA SP-1

WHILE its BSB rivals are pretty much full-on factory race bikes, Vimto Honda’s SP-1 is closer to the production road bike. There are differences, but the gap isn’t as big as it is between the INS Ducati and a 996SPS.

The main change is the HRC race kit, which includes new engine internals such as camshafts and pistons, a new swingarm, Showa suspension, an Akrapovic exhaust system and Nissin brakes. It all adds up to an SP-1 on steroids, but it is still a long way off the WSB machine Aaron Slight is used to racing.

The main difference is power – the Vimto bike is around 12-15bhp down on the WSB bike and the engine tops out some 1000rpm short of the Castrol bike’s limit. The big V-twin motor needs a lot of cooling, so the bike has a radiator divided into two. The radiators replace the side-mounted ones fitted to the road bike. A separate oil cooler prevents the lubrication system boiling in the heat of the action.

Specification

Engine: Liquid-cooled, 999cc (100mm x 63.6mm) PGFM F1 fuel injection, 2 x 56mm throttle bodies with two injectors per cylinder, HRC twin front-mounted radiators and separate oil cooler. 6 gears

Chassis: Aluminium twin-spar

Front suspension: Showa 47mm inverted forks, adjustments for pre-load, compression and rebound damping

Rear suspension: Showa single-shock with rising-rate linkage, adjustments for pre-load, compression, rebound damping and ride height

Tyres: Dunlop 501 slicks; 120/70 x 16.5 front, 195/55 x 16.5 rear

Brakes: Nissin; 2 x 320mm front discs with 6-piston calipers, 200mm rear disc with 2-piston caliper