The ‘K5’ Suzuki GSX-R 1000 was a revised version of the long-standing Gixxer dynasty, with a stellar totally new chassis, a totally new engine, more power, and less weight than the model it replaced. With a wet weight of 444 pounds and 147.3 horsepower, it was an instant speed demon. But a decade and a half later it’s surely been beaten as king. I mean, look how far cars have come in 15 years. Leaps and bounds, right?
Ducati’s Panigale V4 S is certainly one of the highest performance superbikes on the market in 2020. It’s got a raucous 1103cc four-cylinder engine producing 186 horsepower to the wheel, and over 200 at the crank! It has perhaps the most advanced electronics suite in the world of motorcycles with mind-boggling traction control, torque delivery, and throttle mapping algorithms. The S model is delivered with semi-dynamic Öhlins dampers, and little downforce-inducing winglets on the bodywork, so it’s practically race ready. Weighing in at 430 pounds wet, the Duc is pretty significantly lighter and more powerful than the Suzuki.
So it should be way faster, right?
With the Suzuki riding on the same tires as the Ducati it was faster on track. Somehow, even taking different rider talent out of the equation by putting both riders on both bikes, the GSX-R was always faster than the newer, more expensive, and ostensibly faster Ducati. How the hell does that happen?
As a self-described sports car and motorcycle purist, I’d like to believe that the advanced computers can’t hold a candle to the processing power of the human brain and our ability to feel our way through a corner. Maybe that’s part of it, but maybe there’s a limit to the speed we’re capable of, or willing to, commit to. Zack and Ari are about as advanced of riders as you’ll find this side of a MotoGP track, but perhaps a professional knee dragger could get the max out of the Duc? Perhaps not. We may never know.
In the meantime, I’ll be recommending that everyone save the money and just buy a cheap old Gixxer for track rat use. Not only will the bike be faster, sketchier, and cheaper, but it’ll hurt your wallet a lot less when you inevitably drop the thing trying to win your track day. Much to Ducati’s chagrin, maybe the 15-year-old bike is actually better.