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more clutch (like with the GSX-R), and at least I could get the BMW turned with less effort than I could on the Suzuki. But I continued to feel the bike's traction control busily working away at every turn, and my boots kept dragging, keeping this bike from being my favorite. Yet the two other fastest Masters mustered their best times on the S1000RR. What gives?! Upon my return to the pits, the BMW support staff wanted to know what went wrong. I confessed my electro-inhibitions, and they went straight to the right handlebar. "Ah! You just rode it in Sport mode! It should be in Slick setting!"

What's that mean? In Sport mode, the BMW system provides liberal intrusive interruption of power when accelerating while leaned over, puts the kibosh on steering with rear wheelspin, delivers a Newport-Beach-PD level of wheelie inhibition and allows ABS to shut my hacked-out corner entries right down. The BMW people tell me Slick mode would've taken at least a second off my best time of 2:03.662, and that would've made it my fastest time.. .but no.

Even in Slick mode, Freddy Papunen from Motorrad Sweden, who set the fastest time of the whole test on the BMW—1:59.927—felt like the bike held him back just a bit: "Wrhen I pushed for lap times, the traction control cut in a little too aggressively while changing direction under acceleration. It also stopped some small wheelies and I didn't like that." But you can't argue with the raw numbers. This thing \s fasl.

On practice day, drawing lines on Motorland's flowing pavement with the Magic Marker Aprilia RSV4 Factory made it easy to connect the dots and not color over the lines. A balanced chassis and well-set-up Ohlins suspension made late braking and squaring up tighter turns a labor of love. Lean as deep as you like; there are zero issues with cornering clearance, unlike with some of the other front-runners. Acceleration on the RSV4 starts low, with the torque of a Twin, and as the revs rise, its engine pulses smooth out as it pulls hard toward an inline-Four-like finale. Every rider I had a chance to talk with echoed my high opinion of the Aprilia, including Papunen: "A great chassis and awesome engine make it feel like a MotoGP bike. Sharp handling and very fun to ride!"

Race day only confirmed my Aprilia infatuation: When I play those four flying laps back in my head, the only bad I can remember is being chucked out of the seat exiting Turn 7 whilst looking for the edge of the track and some traction at the same time. I found both simultaneously, thank God, and landed back on the Aprilia rather than directly on the perfect pavement in my nice new leathers. Instead of thinking about what might be wrong with the Aprilia, all I recall is: "This is faster than I've ever gone around here before." Balanced Ohlins suspension, Brembo brakes and Pirelli grip allowed me to clear my mind of worry and attack the track for a best time of: 2:03.422. Not bad.

Too bad rainy weather ended our practice day early and kept me from testing the Ducati, MV Agusta and Yamaha. Thankfully, because of all the laps I'd already run, I was very familiar with the track. Plus, I've got lots of seat time on those machines.

I had to start off my timed laps cold on the Ducati 1198S

Fast Freddy Papunen of Motorrad Sweden, reigning Scandinavian Superbike champ, set the fastest time of the test, a 1:59.93, on the BMW.


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