Saturday, December 8, 2012

Moron thought experiments. Oops, I mean 'more on' thought experiments

I expanded on the comparison between MotoGP and 'mere' World Superbike lap times in a recent Backmarker column on When researching that column, I made an embarassing mistake by not realizing that MotoGP and World Superbike run different course configurations at Aragon. Anyway, that edition of Backmarker actually got more than the usual amount of positive feedback, as well as some angry negative and dismissive comments.

Oh well.

The thought experiment of putting a top-flight MotoGP rider on a Superstock-spec (or indeed, production) bike, to see just how close production bikes are to the fastest bikes on the planet, is admittedly probably not something we'll ever really see conducted.

But that doesn't mean it isn't fun to speculate. When I worked at Motorcyclist, I used to fantasize about another experiment that would have been even riskier to carry out, but way more fun.

In this moto-journalist fantasy, I would go up to some place like the Rock Store or Deal's Gap, where dozens of sport bike riders convene on weekends, including  plenty of rich squids on really tricked out top-of-the-line bikes. You know the type; guys who buy the latest Ducati Panigale or BMW HP4, but don't even take it out of the dealership before fitting a full-race exhaust and a swathing it in carbon fiber.

I'd select half-a-dozen of these guys and take them to a race track, where I'd let them spend a day setting their fastest laps. In between sessions they'd endlessly brag up their bikes, citing comparison tests and dyno figures from memory. Once they'd set their best laps, I'd bring out my ringer.

This would be some totally hard core racer, but not just any racer; a guy picked for his ability not just to go fast, but to go fast on shit bikes. Frankly, I'm not sure who I'd pick today, but back when I was having this fantasy, I'd have hired Pascal Picotte for the task. Picotte was a guy they wouldn't recognize in plain leathers, but he combined world-class speed with a knack for extracting speed from less-than-world-class bikes. He came up through the old RZ Cup system, racing Yamaha RZ-350s, and first attracted real attention in a one off ride when the World Superbike series made a rare stop in Mexico. He was blazingly fast on a bumpy, crap track.

The first time I ever saw him ride in person was at my (then) home track of Race City Speedway, in Calgary. That was scrappy, bumpy track, and Picotte set the outright lap record on a Fast by Ferracci Ducati when they brought it up for some testing. I knew the track intimately, having put in several hundred laps at least, and Picotte did things that were, simply, impossible.

Later still, when the ill-fated Harley-Davidson Superbike program brought Scott Russell in as a rider, they added Picotte as Russell's team-mate and Picotte kicked his ass over and over.

I watched Picotte again, riding the Harley Superbike at Loudon. I was racing there, too; it must have been almost the last year that the AMA had it on the schedule. Both the bike and the track were a handful, and Picotte was breathtaking.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, the experiment.

Then, I'd set my rider off to record his best lap on, say, a bone-stock 600. He'd go way, way faster than the fastest squid. (In my fantasy, the squids are all watching from the pit wall, with stop-watches.)

After coming in on the 600, I'd send my ringer out on progressively shittier bikes. Like, maybe the second one out would be a Hyosung 650GT. And on down the line until -- hopefully we'd be at a flowing, technical track, maybe Barber in the eastern version of this experiment -- my ringer was lapping faster than the squids, on a shagged Honda Nighthawk 700, or a Buell Blast.

This would be cruel, but if you datalogged the whole thing it would also be enlightening. Of course, no motorcycle magazine would ever do it, because their bread is buttered by the manufacturers of new bikes.

1 comment:

  1. In the documentary Fastest, which follows motor GP in 2010, it shows Rossi a few weeks after his leg breaking crash ride a Yamaha superbike at a circuit (can't remember which one and i have lent the dvd to a friend) the day after the super bikes raced there. He rides a little faster than the fastest race lap. He's still on crutches when he gets on and off the bike.