Motociclismo Photos

JUNE 2010/37

Just me (the lone North American) and 14 other, ahem, "journalists" from around the world—some of whom, just between you and me, have never ridden a word processor in anger.

Any masterpiece starts with the first line or mark, like learning a racetrack starts by drawing your first entry line, picking a reference mark for the first corner. Allow me to start drawing you a picture: Track temperature on Day One was just above freezing and rainy weather (that ultimately shortened our testing day and kept me from practicing on three of the nine bikes) was on the horizon, which made for cautious first laps. Under these conditions, the logical choice for me to begin practice on was the Honda CBR1000RR, reigning MasterBike from the last round (at Circuito Albacete, Spain— CIV, September, 2008) and also my beloved long-termer, meaning I was well familiar with the bike. It didn't take much more than a lap for the fun to begin. Okay, I'll be honest: I'd already done 20 laps or so a couple days prior thanks to Kenny Noyes' gracious invite to let me ride the Moto2 bike he'll be campaigning this year—a Jack & Jones, Antonio Banderas Racing, Harris-framed machine (for a riding impression with video, visit www.cycleworld.com/moto2).

When the tires met the tarmac, they found only a few small braking ripples (caused by Formula One and GTP car testing) but not a seam or a single chassis-upsetting bump. The cold and smoothness made slides no problem, and by the end of lap one ripping up the fourth-gear front straight, I backed the CBR into the square left-hand second-gear Turn 1, just for fun (and photographic effect) to begin my second lap. All systems go! Wheeee\ I may have taken it a bit too far in Turn 4, though. It's a fast, fourth-gear left kink, and when I flicked the CBR in, the bike stepped out so violently it slapped off the steering stops! Honda's Electronic Steering Damper straightened us out, but with an off-track trajectory at 120-plus mph. After a little bunny-hop over the curb and clearing a 3-foot-wide strip of wet Astroturf, I got it slowed and back under control on the pavement run-off that surrounds most of Motorland. It was nice not to go careening off a tire wall. Forget the FIM, this track just got the MC first-hand safety YES! of approval. Unbelievably, I had a second big slide a few corners later at the finish of my lap, which was a clear indication that the OE Pirelli street tires were also finished.

Speaking of tires, this edition of MasterBike was also the first time each manufacturer was allowed to pick its favorite-flavor Os instead of using a control tire chosen by the organizers; a mixture of Dunlop, Metzeler and Pirelli was cause for extra attention. Add this to all the other elements a rider needs to take into account during a test like this: lever adjustments, clutch engagement, brake feel and chassis feedback, not to mention the power variability of the different engine types—V-Twin, V-Four, inline-Fours—of these nine different machines.

Times were monitored during practice day so that during timed

Eyes on the prize: Nine literbikes, 15 riders, one winner. Thrown in the deep end, our Nakano-helmeted Cernicky struggles to keep up

laps the following day, faster riders would take off first and no one would be caught from behind. After successful practice, on Day Two I lined up second behind former Italian Twins Champion Franco Zenatello and ahead of reigning Scandinavian Superbike Champion Freddy Papunen (can you say "ringer"?). Pressure?! What pressure? Just relax and ride. It was essential to find a rhythm of calculated risk for four timed laps: Crashing was simply not acceptable, and I reminded myself to maintain a 10 percent safety margin at all corner entries—easier when I decided not to compare my lap times to anyone else's until all was said and done and all nine bikes were run.

On "race day," luck of the draw put me once again on the Honda CBR1000RR as my first bike. Rolling down pit lane, I was calmed with faith the size of a mustard seed, a pair of fresh Pirelli Supercorsa SC2s and, truth be told, how much fun MasterBike really is. The Honda team had implemented our setup suggestions, and the CBR was working great. There was lots of controllable power whenever I needed it thanks to that strong engine and just-right gearing; because there was no lag when snapping open the throttle and no running into the

Eyes on the prize: Nine literbikes, 15 riders, one winner. Thrown in the deep end, our Nakano-helmeted Cernicky struggles to keep up

rev limiter, I could finish corners on the gas and steer with the rear. Corner entry was equally good: Aiming for the right of the chicane, I could trust in weight transfer to give me good front-end feel before turning into the apex.

Alas, after only a few laps, spongy-lever brake fade cut into the fantastic feel and that fine line of control it had provided. Still, the CBRIOOORR was stable at speed and pivoted around corners with resounding, tail-happy ease. But while the CBR's chassis setup was positively intuitive and sliding is fun, sideways isn't forward. Best lap: 2:04.013. Still, the Honda is the lightest of the Fours and that helps rideability a lot. Kei "Nasty" Nashimoto's observations were spot-on: "The Honda CBRIOOORR feels small, not too much effort to move around. Its engine makes very usable, broad power, and the suspension was the best for me." Hail

Next up, and polar opposite of the CBR: the KTM RC8R. It's longer and less lively, and the torquey Twin's even power pulses—delivered through the great grip of its Dunlop D211 Supersport race tires—allowed me to lean hard into learning Aragon's nuances during practice. And it didn't hurt when

"Rolling down pit lane, I was calmed with faith the size of a mustard seed, a pair of fresh Pirelli Supercorsa SC2s and, truth be told, how much fun MasterBike really is."

NEWSFLASH!!

This just in: Motorland Aragon will host the 14th GP of 2010 on September 19, replacing the Hungarian round.

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