600cc sportsbikes are more track focused than ever – not one of the current class has any real concessions to road ability.
That’s why they’re so popular on track days – there’s always a swarm lapping at the front of the fast group. So when the 2009 models hit showrooms, we took them to Calafat’s sun-baked tarmac and fitted them with Metzeler Racetec control tyres to split them by pure performance.
1st Triumph Daytona 675 - Lap time 1:34.375
The Triumph is the clear winner on track. Three out of five riders set their fastest times on the Triumph, and the other two riders set their second fastest times on the 675.
Triumph Daytona 675 review
Triumph Daytona 675s for sale
The three-cylinder motor delivers a killer punch - power is instant, even low in the rev range.
It feels tall compared to the others because the seat is high and the narrow design accentuates the feel. The huge ground clearance means you can carry mind-blowing corner speed - the Triumph was one of the fastest mid corner.
The new brakes and forks are match for any bike here – only the Kawasaki’s big-piston forks allow it to brake harder.
2nd Yamaha YZF-R6 - Lap time 1:34.537
The Yamaha might be second fastest, but overall lap times were inconsistent because it takes real dedication to ride fast, like a two-stroke race bike. All the power is at the top of the rev range, you really have to be brave and keep the Yamaha nailed. Dropping out of the power, or choosing the wrong gear quickly costs time.
Yamaha R6 review
Yamaha R6s for sale
The handling demands aggression and 100% concentration, but steering is pin point accurate - some times it turns a quickly. Ground clearance is excellent.
3rd Kawasaki ZX-6R - Lap time 1:34.777
Kawasaki’ ZX-6R is only just behind the R6 and most riders found it easier to ride too.
The ZX-6R is the second most powerful bike here and has a linear delivery which perfect for accelerating out of slow turns. The old bike’s lack of midrange has been rectified with the new bike, but it still revs hard.
Kawasaki ZX-6R review
Kawasaki ZX-6Rs for sale
The Kawasaki front end gives excellent feel and control thanks to the MotoGP-style big-piston front forks. The brakes are shockingly strong - combine that with hardly any dive and brilliant stability and it’s mighty impressive.
It’s hard to fault the ZX-6R. It’s only 0.4 of a second from beating the Triumph, and on a faster track it would have been closer still.
4th Suzuki GSX-R 600 - Lap time 1:35.136
The Suzuki feels the weakest of the bunch - the motor revs freely but it feels the least powerful here (it’s not) but this means you can open the throttle harder and earlier. The brakes are very good but they don’t have the instant power like the ZX-6R. Track suspension set up allows you to brake much deeper.
Suzuki GSX-R600 review
Suzuki GSX-R600s for sale
Steering is precise, though turn-in to slower corners isn’t quick. Nothing really shines about the GSX-R600 - it does everything well without excelling. But it’s not far off the pace, and it’s easiest to ride fast.
5th Honda CBR600RR-Lap time 1:35.669
The revised Honda finishes last over a second slower than the Daytona, though our test bike was a C-ABS model, which is 10kg heavier than stock.
The C-ABS system is impressive, but feels spongy on track, like the hoses were expanding undr severe braking. The back brake is applied automatically by the C-ABS so the CBR remains flat and stable, but this means it doesn’t steer as fast as the R6 or 675 because the forks dive less.
The Honda has a smooth midrange but lacks a top end rush. The Honda is one of the easiest bikes to ride fast – the chassis is nimble but stable and easy to get to grips with. Inexperienced riders will find it easier to ride fast than the lairy R6.
The Triumph is the clear winner – the triple-cylinder motor’s torque gives it a corner-exit advantage as well as helping make the bike narrow and agile.
The R6 grabs second by lapping a shade faster than the Kawasaki, though the Yamaha needs to have a committed rider to use it’s performance – the Kawasaki was only just behind with less effort needed.
The CBR600RR in fourth and the fifth placed GSX-R600 were also close, both bikes being similarly easy to ride, smooth with a nice spread of torque. But when it comes down to lap times they’re behind the competition.
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