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Superbikes vs. Supercars Performance Shootout

8/28/2015

Superbikes vs. Supercars at our 0-180 MPH Ultimate Performance Shootout
Yeah, we know, we technically should have called this story “Burn & Turn” because we conducted our straight-line acceleration tests to 180 mph (and beyond) at the Lemoore Naval Air Station before dragging knees at Buttonwillow Raceway Park. But the Navy folks graciously fit us in when they could, and, besides, we think “Turn & Burn” rolls off the tongue much better. It also beautifully conjures up images of fighter jets in action.

And at NAS Lemoore, there are plenty of them. In fact, the Navy’s entire West Coast fighter/attack capability of F/A-18 Super Hornets is stationed at this huge facility in the San Joaquin Valley in Central California. The station is effectively a city, a place where Navy pilots sharpen their skills by flying regular missions and practicing carrier landings on the smooth, rubber-streaked 3-mile runways that once served as emergency landing strips for our now-defunct space shuttle program.

Our mission was simple. As in our original “Turn & Burn” in our July 2008 issue, we gathered a crop of current hyperbikes and unleashed them on runway 32R in a speed contest to hit 180 mph and peak velocity. Unfortunately, the supercharged Kawasaki H2R trackbike, the real catalyst for this test, was not made available for us to test (see below for details). Nevertheless, we still managed to assemble a stellar group, with the BMW S1000RR and Ducati 1299 Panigale S joined by the street-legal Kawasaki H2 and Yamaha YZF-R1M. For some good comparative fun, we also brought along a 650-horse Chevrolet Corvette Z06 and a plug-in hybrid, a privately owned 903-hp McLaren P1, chassis 144 of 275 being built.

Superbikes vs. Supercars at our 0-180 MPH Ultimate Performance Shootout© Cycle World Superbikes vs. Supercars at our 0-180 MPH Ultimate Performance Shootout Road Test Editor Don Canet, no stranger to speed, would ride each bike, while Derek Hill—former F3000 driver, son of Phil Hill (1961 Formula 1 World Champion), and a huge motorcycle enthusiast—was our shoe. Cars and bikes were stock, but we allowed the motorcycle companies to equip their machines with any optional track-only ECUs, in the interest of best performance. However, once we saw that the Panigale 1299 S had arrived without mirrors and license plate (and Ducati didn’t even have the parts back in its Sprinter), we allowed all bikes to run that way. Also, the BMW S1000RR was fitted with an accessory Akrapovic pipe due to bad communication on our part, but all other bikes ran stock exhausts.

So join us now for our test, which took place on a mild spring day, with temps topping out in the mid-70s. Elevation at NAS Lemoore, for the record, is 230 feet, and the wind was mild all day. Our cars and bikes would launch from the north end of runway 32R then disappear into a shimmering mirage with engines audible the whole way. At 180 mph, they’re gobbling up nearly a football field every second, and all the while, GPS satellites communicated with our VBox test equipment to capture all the crucial data. Now, our vehicles, in increasing level of performance.

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WHERE’S THE H2R?

"What if you threw a party and the Ninja of honor didn’t show? It seems to us that the very reason to build a supercharged, 300-plus-horsepower closed-circuit-only motorcycle is, at the very least, to crush any supposed competition in a straight-line test of acceleration and top speed.

The Kawasaki Ninja H2R was the very reason we asked the United States Navy to shut down its beautiful, expansive 3-mile runway at NAS Lemoore and arranged for all these other hyper-performance vehicles to rip their way into the laws of physics.

Unfortunately, Kawasaki decided to bring only the H2 streetbike. The official statement: “Kawasaki [USA] is currently in possession of a single H2R, therefore loans for media events are limited. The H2R is currently scheduled for high-speed testing by Kawasaki R&D. Once this testing has been completed this model will become available for additional testing by media outlets.”

This note came after sister publication Sport Rider conducted acceleration and high-speed testing with the H2R that saw the bike hit 204 mph in a half mile.

To help us secure the H2R, we offered to have Kawasaki use its own rider and not run for top speed. But Kawasaki still chose to not participate.

As for the H2 streetbike not being in the “Turn” portion of our test, Kawasaki said the H2 wasn’t intended to be a supersport competitor and referred us to its ZX-10R. But it’s our comparison test policy that if a bike wasn’t the shootout winner last time we were at the track, and it has not been subject to significant updates, it’s not to be included.

We’re as disappointed as you that Kawasaki decided not to unleash its super-charged flagship. Maybe next time… "

—Mark Hoyer

Chevrolet Corvette Z06

Chevrolet Corvette Z06 at our 0-180 MPH Ultimate Performance Shootout© Cycle World Chevrolet Corvette Z06 at our 0-180 MPH Ultimate Performance Shootout

Price (as tested): $85,565

Weight: 3524 lb.

Horsepower: 650 hp at 6400 rpm

0–180 mph: 56.64 sec.

Distance to 180 mph: 9704 ft.

There’s one number to associate with the aluminum-chassis Corvette Z06: 650. As in 650 hp, 650 pound-feet of torque. That’s right: The supercharged 6.2-liter LT4 V-8 is an exceptionally potent mill, and wheelspin constantly beckons.

We, however, wanted this Vette—a stock Z06 coupe with a seven-speed manual transaxle—to hook up as best as possible, and Derek Hill, after a few practice runs, opted to launch the car with the PTM traction control and launch control shut off, knowing full well that if he got too much wheelspin, it would take seemingly forever for those massive 335-width Michelins to come back down to the point of traction.

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It worked well. Our Z06 shot off the line with minimal rubber smoke and only a hint of squat before hitting 60 mph in 3.68 seconds and blasting through the quarter-mile in 12.1 seconds at 121.22 mph. While not Car and Driver quick, this was a solid run, Derek shifting with the deliberate mechanical sympathy of an owner. Chevrolet Corvette Z06 and Ducati 1299 Panigale S at our 0-180 MPH Ultimate Performance Shootout© Cycle World Chevrolet Corvette Z06 and Ducati 1299 Panigale S at our 0-180 MPH Ultimate Performance Shootout

The 56.64-second blast to 180 mph, however, was comparatively glacial. Here’s the deal: Approaching 180 mph, the Z06 was near its terminal velocity, and those last few mph came agonizingly slowly. Derek tried to hit 180 in fifth, on the rev limiter, but the Z06 topped out at 179.4, which meant a time-consuming upshift to sixth was needed. “It was caught between fifth and sixth,” Derek explained. “It took forever to claw its way back to 180.”

Nevertheless, Derek was impressed with the big and thunderous Z06, saying it felt stable at speed with the adaptive MagneRide suspension in the Track Mode’s Sport setting. And just think: This seriously good everyday supercar, a pulse-quickener of the first order, is backed by an impressive five-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Ducati 1299 Panigale S

Ducati 1299 Panigale S at our 0-180 MPH Ultimate Performance Shootout© Cycle World Ducati 1299 Panigale S at our 0-180 MPH Ultimate Performance Shootout

Price: $24,995

Weight: 406 lb.

Horsepower: 177 hp @ 10,700 rpm

0–180 mph: 19.43 sec.

Distance to 180 mph: 3659 ft.

The Ducati, we’re sorry to report, is the only bike in this test that was not as quick to 180 mph as the Kawasaki ZX-10R that won our original “Turn & Burn” test in 2008. What gives? Like the Corvette, the rumbly V-twin Italian was very near its terminal velocity approaching 180, so it took an extraordinary amount of time (and real estate) to reach that speed.

But if you look at the quarter-mile sprint, the 1299 Panigale S was a rocket, one of only two bikes to break the 10-second barrier. Prior to his timed runs, Canet spent a good chunk of time fiddling with the wheelie control and traction control. Wheelspin on the grippy concrete wasn’t a problem, but because the front wheel would come off the ground at initial launch and stay aloft for a long while (and spin significantly slower than the rear), it would trip an error code that would need to be reset by our Ducati technician. “My best runs were when I tempered my throttle hand,” explained Canet, who said the wheelie control lets the 1299 stand up steeply in second gear. “By the top of second gear, you’re over 100 mph.” Traction control, Canet concluded, hurt the launches.

So, for his best runs, Canet switched all electronics off, launched the big Panigale at 6,000 rpm, and used the clutch to keep revs in the thick of the powerband, somewhere between 7,000 and 8,000 rpm. “With the Duc,” Canet explained, “you short-shift it, set it back down, and repeat. It has excellent midrange, so you can short-shift it without having it fall flat. You can’t do that with the inline-fours.”

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THE LIMITS OF ACCELERATION

"Fighting the wheelie and other issues when motorcycles take on cars.

Given unlimited engine power, we tend to think of acceleration being limited only by how sticky our tire is, but there is a more fundamental limit—even if we have unlimited power and unlimited tire grip. That limit is chassis geometry. At some level of acceleration, the front wheel(s) will lift off the pavement, and that is the maximum acceleration possible.

Why? Because the higher the front end rises, the easier it gets to lift it further, until the taillight is broken. Or worse.

Max acceleration comes with the front tire barely kissing pavement. When building a dragbike, we raise this acceleration “wheelie limit” by (1) using the widest, stickiest tire allowed; (2) by moving major masses (engine and rider) forward and lowering them as far as we can; and (3) by using a wheelie bar. Have a look at any Pro Stock motorcycle dragbike.

Yet when we compare practical sporting motorcycles with fast automobiles, we are comparing a vehicle with a short wheelbase (55.3 inches) and high center of mass (something around 21 to 22 inches is necessary for cornering clearance) to a vehicle with a much longer wheelbase (105 inches) and with its engine located Formula 1-style, barely above the pavement. This means that the car’s wheelie-limited rate of acceleration is much higher than that of the bike.

A powerful production motorcycle, providing two wheels, an engine, and a place to sit, can achieve a fabulous power-to-weight ratio of around 3.4 hp per pound. This McLaren P1 is less fabulous at 3.8. Yet even with this difference apparently in favor of the bike, the car pulls away. This is because it can put more power behind each square foot of aerodynamic frontal area and because while the car is fully streamlined, the motorcycle’s streamlining ends with its fairing. And the car is putting power down with two wheels."

—Kevin Cameron

Yamaha YZF-R1M

Yamaha YZF-R1M at our 0-180 MPH Ultimate Performance Shootout© Cycle World Yamaha YZF-R1M at our 0-180 MPH Ultimate Performance Shootout

Price: $21,990

Weight: 419 lb.

Horsepower: 173.3 hp @ 13,610 rpm

0–180 mph: 16.68 sec.

Distance to 180 mph: 2944 ft.

With the glistening silver and blue YZF-R1 R1M, Canet was instructed by the Yamaha rep to have engine power in its max setting, TC in its least intrusive mode, launch control at its most aggressive level, lift control set to 1, and suspension in Auto 3. Then, after pinning the throttle to have the electronics keep the engine at a constant 10,000 rpm, Canet would release the clutch and modulate it as the R1M shot down the runway, throttle pinned the whole way. The runs looked superbly consistent, with Canet banging upshifts as the front wheel skimmed above Lemoore concrete for what looked like a quarter-mile.

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“I like the launch control strategy of this thing and the tall first gear,” Canet remarked. “It never feels like it’s going to come over on you. It keeps the front wheel just skimming the ground. And the assist clutch has none of the chatter and grab I’d feel on the old R1s.”

Because the R1M’s trick 999cc four-cylinder doesn’t have the thick midrange power of the supercharged H2 or the big Ducati twin, Canet said it was best to keep the R1M above 9,000 rpm. “But to tell you the truth, I’m not even noticing the shift lights,” he explained. Of note, the Yamaha YZF-R1M, with its track-only ECU, was our slowest bike in the quarter-mile (by a mere 0.07 second), but its ultimate velocity of 188.7 mph was the highest peak speed reached by a motorcycle at Lemoore that day. “It’s a piece of cake getting tucked in on that thing,” Canet said with a grin.

Kawasaki H2

Kawasaki Ninja H2 at our 0-180 MPH Ultimate Performance Shootout© Cycle World Kawasaki Ninja H2 at our 0-180 MPH Ultimate Performance Shootout

Price: $25,000

Weight: 501 lb.

Horsepower: 189.8 hp @ 11,090 rpm

0–180 mph: 16.04 sec.

Distance to 180 mph: 2859 ft.

While launching the Yamaha YZF-R1M was a relative walk in the park, the supercharged Kawasaki H2 was entirely different. “It’s hard to feel what it’s going to do because of the nature of the engine and the boost,” Canet remarked after a few practice runs in which he experimented with the launch, traction, and wheelie control systems. On some runs, the H2 felt planted in third gear, able to take full throttle. On others, Canet said the bike wanted to snap its front wheel up way too high for comfort.

After working with the Kawasaki tech on how to best set up the H2, Canet decided to launch the heavy 501-pound machine with all electronics off. That way, he’d have full confidence for the whole run and not worry about how much front wheel lift would be allowed in each gear by the particular settings he had chosen for that run.

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Kawasaki Ninja H2 and McLaren P1 at our 0-180 MPH Ultimate Performance Shootout© Cycle World Kawasaki Ninja H2 and McLaren P1 at our 0-180 MPH Ultimate Performance Shootout With everything switched off, he launched the H2R at only 5,000 rpm, leveraging the supercharged four-cylinder’s midrange power. It worked. Canet’s runs looked much smoother, with the rear hooking up beautifully and the front barely aloft, both under the control of his skilled right wrist. What can we say? With a full day of testing on a bike as electronically complex as the H2, we might have found an ideal setting for the conditions. Or we could simply hand control to Canet and watch a human computer handle it with the aplomb of a guy who’s been testing bikes for decades.

The choice was easy for us, and at the end of the day, the H2 was quickest bike to 60 and 100 mph. And it hit 180 mph in only 16.04 seconds, 1.2 seconds more quickly than the winning ZX-10R in our first visit to Lemoore. Impressive. One can only imagine what the track-only H2R, with 100 more horsepower, would have managed on this glorious runway.

BMW S1000RR

BMW S1000RR at our 0-180 MPH Ultimate Performance Shootout© Cycle World BMW S1000RR at our 0-180 MPH Ultimate Performance Shootout

Price: $15,500

Weight: 416 lb.

Horsepower: 181.7 hp @ 13,600 rpm

0–180 mph: 16.00 sec.

Distance to 180 mph: 2742 ft.

Canet did his first timed run of the day on the howling BMW S1000RR and came back wide-eyed. “That thing’s gnarly,” Canet said from inside his Arai. “It wants to wheelie forever. I can’t give it anymore stick. I don’t think I set the front end down until I was doing about 140.”

Contemplate that for a moment. As with the Kawasaki H2 and Ducati Panigale, Canet chose to test the Beemer with launch control, traction control, and wheelie control off. “For drag launches, these systems hurt the BMW’s performance out of the hole,”

he said. “They cause the bike to cut power and bog.”

With everything switched off, Canet said he couldn’t be aggressive with the throttle until third gear, when he could really wring it out. But even in fourth gear, snapping the throttle open would make the S1000RR stand right up. “Makes it pretty fun,” remarked our master of understatement.

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McLaren P1 and BMW S1000RR at our 0-180 MPH Ultimate Performance Shootout© Cycle World McLaren P1 and BMW S1000RR at our 0-180 MPH Ultimate Performance Shootout So, with Canet making the 1-2 and 2-3 shifts at 12,000 pm instead of 14,000 to help keep the front wheel down, the S1000RR posted a fantastic time, hitting 180 mph in 16 seconds flat and streaking to a terminal velocity of 184.5 mph.

That makes the S1000RR the fastest motorcycle to 180 mph in our test, edging the H2 by a mere 0.04 second. But let’s remember the Kawi was bone stock, while the Beemer was fitted with a race-kit ECU (allowed) and an accessory pipe (that no other bike got to run). Did that Akrapovic system give the BMW the two-wheel title? We can’t say for sure. But if Kawasaki had let us test the supercharged 300-horse H2R track-only bike, it wouldn’t have been an issue.

McLaren P1

McLaren P1 at our 0-180 MPH Ultimate Performance Shootout© Cycle World McLaren P1 at our 0-180 MPH Ultimate Performance Shootout

Price: $1,207,262

Weight: 3300 lb.

Horsepower: 727 @ 7300 rpm (gasoline), 176 hp (electric)

0–180 mph: 15.74 sec.

Distance to 180 mph: 2635 ft.

When you think of plug-in hybrids, you’re forgiven if the million-dollar P1 doesn’t come to mind. But that’s exactly what this carbon-tub exotic is, powered by a twin-turbo 3.8-liter V-8 with 727 hp and a 176-horse electric motor. While 903 total ponies can reach the forged rear wheels, the electric motor is used primarily to smooth power delivery by filling in the gaps as we for wait for turbo boost to arrive after each shift.

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McLaren P1 at our 0-180 MPH Ultimate Performance Shootout© Cycle World McLaren P1 at our 0-180 MPH Ultimate Performance Shootout Not that this was a concern at Lemoore. Once Hill learned how to properly launch this missile and extract maximum performance out of the car (which, at one point, involved speaking by phone with an engineer at McLaren’s HQ in Woking, England), he got down to work. After putting it in track mode (which lowers the P1 2 inches) and pressing the launch control button, he applied left-foot brake, gave it half-throttle, and then came off the brake while simultaneously giving it full gas the whole way. Hill would upshift the dual-clutch gearbox via paddles while keeping his other hand on the Drag Reduction System button to keep that massive rear wing from deploying into the airflow.

Sound easy? Relatively so, considering all that power. “You could drive this thing to work every day,” remarked Hill, who, at 6-foot-2, said he fit well in the P1. That’s a lot of power going to just two wheels, and on each run the traction control managed grip so beautifully that the P1 shot down the strip as if flung by some massive sling. Hill thought he was faster shifting the P1 manually, closer to redline, but the best results were actually achieved in automatic mode, with shifts occurring in rapid-fire succession.

And what were the best numbers? Try 60 mph in 3.2 seconds, followed by the quarter in 10.35 seconds at 149.70 mph and 180 mph in 15.74 seconds. This was our quickest blast of the day, which culminated with a peak velocity of 206.5 mph. Main message here: The P1 hit 180 a quarter second more quickly than our fastest bikes, the BMW S1000RR and Kawasaki H2, and it did so in 107 and 224 fewer feet, respectively.

Impressive, for sure, but rather than making superbikes look bad, this million-dollar Brit underscores the huge bang-for-the-buck advantage that motorcycles maintain over cars. And not just over pricey exotics such as the P1 (whose Volcano Orange paint is a $10,850 option!) but also over supercar bargains such as the Z06 Corvette.

ACCELERATION ANALYSIS

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McLaren P1 and Kawasaki Ninja H2 at our 0-180 MPH Ultimate Performance Shootout© Cycle World McLaren P1 and Kawasaki Ninja H2 at our 0-180 MPH Ultimate Performance Shootout "Big picture, it’s easy to see that the McLaren P1 smoked everybody in the blast to 180. But there are other points worth noting: All the bikes, for instance, were quicker to the quarter-mile and 150, with the supercharged Kawasaki H2 leading the way. Where the P1 really starts to shine is from 150 to 180, when its better aero comes into play and the car slices through that performance window nearly three-quarters of a second more quickly than the fastest bike, the BMW S1000RR. Incidentally, the Corvette Z06 hit 150 mph in 21.56 seconds, but it took it another 35.08 to reach 180, compared to only 5.35 for the P1. Yes, the P1 is lighter and more powerful, but it’s important to note that the Z06 topped out at 179.4 mph in fifth (at 43.56 seconds) and needed a time-consuming shift to sixth to reach 180. If the Z06 hadn’t needed that shift, its 180 time (and distance) would have been significantly better but still no match for our four superbikes."

—Andrew Bornhop

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© Cycle World© Cycle World

A BRIEF SURVEY OF QUICK

Zero to 7,612 mph in five seconds? Sure.

© Cycle World "When I graduated from high school, 0 to 60 in 10 seconds was high performance. That was a little more than a quarter of a G (which is acceleration of 32 feet per second, every second). Commercial jets take about 26 seconds from brake release to rotation at 180 knots (something like 300 feet/second), which gives us about 0.36G.

Then we get to street-operable high-performance rides. Aprilia’s RSV4 gets to 60 in 2.7 seconds, or just over 1G. This is a common number for supercars as well.

We know that the thrust of any jet fighter that can climb straight up has to be greater than its weight, which means it can accelerate at more than 1G. But the engine(s) of a Mach 2 aircraft deliver limited propulsive efficiency at 0-to-60 speeds (that’s why we don’t use rocket motors to do our spring plowing). So their 0-to-60 times are comparable with high-end wheel-driven production cars and bikes. Good top speed though.

A Formula 1 car on very short gearing might do 0 to 60 in as little as 1.6 seconds (1.7G), but normal numbers are 2.1 seconds (1.3G) to 2.7.

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Moving from the remarkable to the fantastic, a Pro Stock motorcycle does 0 to 60 in roughly 1 second, or 2.75G, showing the value of a big sticky tire and a bike with its weight low and far forward. And a wheelie bar.

At the end of the scale for wheel-driven vehicles are Top Fuelers, reckoned to reach 60 mph in just over half a second, for an acceleration of 5 to 6G.

Vaulting from fantastic to ridiculous was the Martin “Sprint” Anti-Ballistic Missile, designed for close-in intercept of incoming ICBMs that had got past the “Spartan” system. It darted out of its silo at 100G covering the first quarter-mile in nine-tenths of a second, tripping the lights at 1,960 mph and reaching Mach 10 (7,612 mph) in five seconds. Sprint was briefly deployed in the 1970s.

We soft humans lose consciousness at moderate accelerations. We hear of combat pilots pulling 8 or more G, but essential things start coming loose inside us at 30G. We’d be squashed by a ride in Sprint then become hot plasma in the fireball of its W-66 nuclear warhead."

—Kevin Cameron

© Cycle World


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