When Steve Bland – tree surgeon, Red Bull addict and speed freak – told us he could beat a sportsbike around a track on his unlimited class World Speed Record-challenging Hayabusa we were, it has to be said, somewhat doubtful.
So we booked two places on a Donington Park trackday and chose a humble Honda CBR600RR as our weapon of choice. It’s a fine-handling machine and being the least powerful of all the supersport bikes (106bhp at the rear wheel) it would make our victory over his gazillion bhp Busa all the sweeter.
To give Steve a chance to claw back some glory after a morning of humiliation on track, we also decided to head to Bruntingthorpe’s two-mile test strip to let the stretched, nitrous nutter Busa off its leash. Well, that was the idea…
I’m surprised Steve even wants to risk his bike on track so close to his world record attempt. With the bike starting out as an £1800 eBay bargain six years ago, the 28-year-old has built everything by hand, and at great expense in his spare time, with help from tuners Race Engineering in Great Dunmow.
But come judgement day rain stops play at Donington. The track is perilously slippery when it’s wet, so less than ideal conditions to be riding a one-of-a-kind machine with Pirelli Diablo Super Corsa SC2 race tyres. So we head to Bruntingthorpe, 45 minutes away, where it’s almost dry.
The Leicestershire proving ground also has a handling track, of sorts. It has corners, and a chicane, but unluckily for me and the Honda, the back straight is huge.
Let’s be honest, Steve’s weird-looking Busa doesn’t seem like it’ll be any good around corners. It’s long, unwieldy and his rear 200-section Pirelli looks as thin as a pushbike tyre beneath the Suzuki’s huge tail unit.
But nitrous only comes in on full throttle, so in the corners Steve is simply riding a relatively docile 170bhp Busa. It weighs 40kg less than the standard machine, too, so at 180kg wet, it’s actually 20kg lighter than the Honda.
Plus, it turns out Steve is much better in the corners than you might expect for a straight-line drag racer.
Following the big Busa around the handling track, seeing such an unwieldy-looking machine going so fast through the corners, is a surprise. I thought Steve would have to wait to get the bike upright before dishing out the power to the back wheel, but he’s hard on the gas as soon as the apex is dealt with, smearing Pirelli stripes onto the Tarmac all the way out of the damp corners.
With its track-focused chassis and superior ground clearance (Steve’s scraping his fairing lowers everywhere at full lean) the Honda can carry more corner speed, as you’d expect.
Drop back a bit and take a run on him through the corner and the CBR600RR is fast enough to draw alongside the Suzuki on the exit. But then Steve opens the taps and is gone.
The Busa is so tall-geared it never needs more than third, while I’m thrashing the Honda through the gears for all it’s worth. Watching the speedo climb from 150-160mph seems to take an eternity with the Busa buggering off into the distance.
I can only catch Steve in the braking zone at the end of the straight and even then only by braking at an angle and diving for the apex. Using the ‘V’ line into the corner helps me to catch up and overtake, while Steve has to use the long way round, with a classic, sweeping line. But with its Brembo front brake conversion, he can get his lightweight Busa stopped remarkably well.
Using its superior corner speed and braking, the CBR600RR can stay in front around the whole lap apart from the long straight. At Donington the CBR600RR would’ve lapped faster, no question, but seeing how well Steve can ride and how quick the Busa actually is in the corners, it wouldn’t have been the whitewash we’d anticipated. Not like what he’s about to do to me in a straight line shoot-out…
Now it’s time for Steve to get his own back on the lithe-handling, deep-braking little supersport bike. The Honda CBR600RR might be able to record a datalogged 162mph, but I’ve got no chance.
For the first few feet of our standing start my front wheel is level with the Busa’s rear, but its front is almost out of sight, the Suzuki is so bloody long.
Screaming, but seemingly standing still in this company, the Honda has no hope of staying with a machine designed to launch to over 200mph within a mile from a standing start. It would be hard enough staying with the lighter, 851cc-bigger Busa even without the laughing gas, but once the nitrous kicks in it’s totally futile.
Although the Suzuki is set-up for big speeds rather than initial acceleration, it still pulverises the Honda. Steve expects to do a quarter mile in around eight seconds and reach 180-190mph within that time. The Honda limps asthmatically to the quarter-mile in 11.32 secs @ 127.38mph.
So there you have it. Game over. Short and sweet, which is the name of the straight-line game. Steve’s Busa is a marvel of British engineering and a machine that will hopefully smash the world record as easily as it dispatched with the Honda here on a drag strip.