HONDA’S CBR600 may be as common as muck, but this is no common CBR600. This is Fabian Foret’s CBR racer which nudged a staggering 180mph at the Monza World Supersport round.
The CBR is the fastest bike in this close series, but it still got beaten to the title by Andrew Pitt’s slower, but more consistent Kawasaki ZX-6R. Foret and Co didn’t fail in their title bid for lack of trying, though, for the CBR is a miracle of clever mods by HRC and the Dutch-based Ten Kate squad.
From a distance, you’d be hard-pressed to distinguish Foret’s bike from any street CBR with a carbon can, but take a ride around Jerez and it’s difficult to believe it’s not a totally different motorcycle. Where the stock CBR struggles to find the apex, the race bike zeroes in like a guided missile, and where the standard machine seems slow and breathless, the racer jumps out of turns, screaming all the way to 16,000rpm, almost two grand more than the stocker. Of course, this should be no surprise. Foret’s CBR is taut and sharp, honed for a purpose – it doesn’t have to keep tens of thousands of owners from all over the globe comfortable and content.
Ten Kate stresses that the secret to Supersport success is in the details. Every bike on the grid has the full list of permitted modifications: hot cams (but with stock lift), flowed cylinder head, raised compression, special ignition and close-ratio gearbox, plus modified suspension, super-sticky race tyres and trick brake rotors. It’s finding a little extra somewhere that makes the difference.
" The whole package of engine, suspension and tyres is important, but I think feedback from the suspension is the most crucial because it’s very important that the riders can feel the limit, " says the team’s suspension engineer Andre Stamsrijder, who builds internals for Foret’s forks and fits a carefully modified works rear shock.
" But straight-line speed is also important when the racing is as close as it is in Supersport, " says Ten Kate chief mechanic Robert Kleinherenbrink.
" We even use special tape on the fairing to break up the boundary layer and improve aerodynamics, plus Foret is very good at making himself small on the bike for the straights.
" When races are won and lost by a few tenths, details like that can make all the difference. It’s the same with the brakes – the special Braking rotors weigh less, so they reduce gyro effect, allowing the bike to turn and change direction quicker. "
Ten Kate claims its motors, tuned with HRC support at its well-equipped workshops near Assen, poke out 125bhp, 15bhp more than a showroom model. On the track Foret keeps the motor spinning above 11,500rpm, shifting gear at 15,200rpm and letting it go all the way to 16,000rpm when he needs some over-rev between turns. But there’s no tacho to keep an eye on for spot-on shifts – just a little red light that flashes at 15,200rpm.
The motors last 1000 miles between stripdowns, when bearings, pistons
valves and springs are replaced. Foret has no less than four engines to choose from at every race, not because they’re likely to go bang, but because the CBR doesn’t have a cassette gearbox like a real race bike, so the team fits a different cluster to each of the engines, allowing him to choose the best combination of ratios
to suit each track.
That’s modern-day Supersport racing – an awful lot of work goes into making ordinary bikes perform extraordinarily.