Author: Simon Toyne

Lincolnshire Biker and PMF Biker magazine editor, Goodwood (grrc.goodwood.com) motorcycle road tester and reviewer, UlsterGP contributor, Paddock chatter contributor, Bikefan.co.uk editor, Ducati 749S & Aprilia RSV-R Factory owner, full-time sportsbike lover, part-time deer slayer, petrolhead and owner of Write On Media (Writeonmedia.strikingly.com)

MotoGP – Dovizioso wins dramatic race in Austria to keep title dream alive

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Andrea Dovizioso scores a fantastic win in the Austrian Grand Prix to move into second place in the championship. Jorge Lorenzo had a good race to finish fourth

Ducati factory rider Andrea Dovizioso produced a spectacular ride to keep his championship ambitions alive at the Red Bull Ring circuit near Spielberg, fending off an attacking Marc Marquez to take the win in a sensational last lap duel.

The Italian rider, who started from the front row of the grid after going second quickest in qualifying, rode a tactical race to always stay in the leading group, carefully managing his tyres before taking the lead on Lap 18.

Dovizioso was then passed by Marquez but was back in the lead again on Lap 22 and he held on to that position until the chequered flag, despite a sensational last-ditch attempt by the Spanish rider in the final corner.

Thanks to the 25 points’ haul for the win, his third of the season, Dovizioso has moved into second place in the overall championship standings, reducing the gap from leader Marquez to just 16 points.

Dovizioso said: “It was a crazy race, but to be honest the whole weekend was incredible, and in particular the final curve of the last lap, but I managed to remain clear headed and was aware that Marquez was going to try and pass me.

“It was a very difficult situation because if Marquez had closed the door coming out of the corner, he would have forced me out and passed me. Instead I was able to resist his attack and I went on to win! I’m very satisfied with the way we managed the entire weekend with my team: understanding the right choice of tyres was really difficult but we did it.

“We had a great race, we’re making up points in the championship, and we’ve got all the right cards to fight for the title.”

 

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BSB – Brookes and Hickman share the spoils at Thruxton

2017 BSB, BSB R07, Thruxton, Hampshire, UK.

Josh Brookes and Peter Hickman joined the ranks of 2017 BSB winners, as they became the fifth and sixth different race victors this year. The pair’s success at Thruxton also marked the first wins for the Anvil Hire TAG Yamaha and Smiths Racing BMW teams.

Brookes scored his first victory of the season in the opening race, stealing the lead from Hickman in the closing stages in the first high-speed duel of the day.

Pole sitter Jake Dixon had fired himself off the line fastest to lead on the opening lap ahead of Hickman and Brookes as Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne dropped down the order after a mistake at the chicane that caused him to run on.

Two laps later and the BMW Safety Car was deployed when Billy McConnell crashed out, but when the race resumed Dixon was instantly under attack from Hickman. The Lincolnshire ace took the lead on the brakes into the chicane on Lap Nine, pushing Dixon into the clutches of Brookes.

Brookes though was determined and by Lap 15 he was in the lead and with three laps to go he was able to edge out a slight advantage which he held until the chequered flag to give the team their first race victory in the premier class.

Hickman had been embroiled in a battle with Dixon throughout the closing stages but was able to fend off the attack over the final two laps to give the local team a podium finish with Dixon completing the top three.

Byrne had fought his way back into fourth place with Christian Iddon battling to fifth place for Tyco BMW after keeping Jason O’Halloran in his wheel tracks on the leading Honda Fireblade.

Leon Haslam was seventh on the sole JG Speedfit Kawasaki with Bradley Ray equalling his best result of the season in eighth ahead of John Hopkins and Sylvain Guintoli, who featured in the top ten for the first time this year.

In race two Smiths Racing BMW celebrated their debut race win in the Championship as Hickman delivered a hard-fought victory for the local team.

Dixon had again got off to a lightening start onboard the RAF Reserves Kawasaki to lead Hickman and race one winner Brookes on the opening lap with the pack all lining up to try and gain the early advantage.

Byrne was determined to be back in podium contention and he had moved second by the end of lap two as Bradley Ray ended his race prematurely with a crash whilst running inside the top ten.

Byrne had hit the front of the pack, but Dixon fought back strongly with a determined move at the chicane, but a lap later and the defending champion repaid the move in exactly the same place.

Hickman was then ready to get involved in the fight for the lead and on the eighth lap he nudged his way ahead to capture the lead.

Byrne regained the position but Hickman wasn’t giving up and a lap later he was back at the front of the pack as Brookes had launched himself through to second place on the Anvil Hire TAG Yamaha.

The Australian was then pushing for the lead, claiming the top spot on lap 14 as Byrne was dropping back dramatically before retiring from the race.

Brookes lead until the penultimate lap when he crashed out unhurt, leaving Hickman to hold the advantage with Dixon in second place at the finish. Meanwhile there was an epic scrap for the final podium position as Iddon, Leon Haslam and O’Halloran battled for the valuable points.

Haslam bided his time and waited until the last lap to make a move on the Tyco BMW rider to score the final podium place ahead of Iddon and O’Halloran with Martin Jessopp scoring an impressive sixth place.

Lee Jackson held off Guintoli for seventh place with James Ellison for McAMS Yamaha and Jakub Smrz for the Lloyd and Jones PR Racing BMW team completing the top ten.

MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship, Thruxton, Race one result:

1. Josh Brookes (Anvil Hire TAG Yamaha)

2. Peter Hickman (Smiths Racing BMW) +1.026s

3. Jake Dixon (RAF Reserves Kawasaki) +1.774s

4. Shane Byrne (Be Wiser Ducati) +2.305s

5. Christian Iddon (Tyco BMW) +5.604s

6. Jason O’Halloran (Honda Racing) +6.797s

7. Leon Haslam (JG Speedfit Kawasaki) +6.926s

8. Bradley Ray (Buildbase Suzuki) +12.419s

9. John Hopkins (Moto Rapido Ducati) +12.425s

10.Sylvain Guintoli (Bennetts Suzuki) +12.994s

MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship, Thruxton, Race two result:

1. Peter Hickman (Smiths Racing BMW)

2. Jake Dixon (RAF Reserves Kawasaki) +0.6044s

3. Leon Haslam (JG Speedfit Kawasaki) +11.227s

4. Christian Iddon (Tyco BMW) +11.467s

5. Jason O’Halloran (Honda Racing) +14.971s

6. Martin Jessopp (Ridersmotorcycles BMW) +18.505s

7. Lee Jackson (Smiths Racing BMW) +18.600s

8. Sylvain Guintoli (Bennetts Suzuki) +19.199s

9. James Ellison (McAMS Yamaha) +19.512s

10.Jakub Smrz (Lloyd and Jones PR Racing BMW) +19.725s

MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship standings after Thruxton:

1. Shane Byrne (Be Wiser Ducati) 203

2. Leon Haslam (JG Speedfit Kawasaki) 184

3. Peter Hickman (Smiths Racing BMW) 164

4. Luke Mossey (JG Speedfit Kawasaki) 161

5. Josh Brookes (Anvil Hire TAG Yamaha) 154

6. Jason O’Halloran (Honda Racing) 154

 

MotoGP – dominant win for Marquez at Brno

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Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez took a back-to-back victory at Brno in challenging conditions, his third this year and the 58th in his career, extending his championship lead to 14 points over his closest follower.

It was the fifth flag-to-flag race that Marquez has perfectly mastered thanks to a mix of tactics and determination – on this occasion the Spaniard found himself struggling soon after the lights went off, having fitted a soft rear tyre that he wasn’t at ease with on a drying track.

He was the first to roll the dice and pitted on Lap Two, where his team was ready with his second bike fitted with slick tyres. That allowed him to pull a huge gap on his opponents, which he managed until the chequered flag.

Team-mate Pedrosa was also on form and secured a strong second place, bringing his career podium tally to 150 (and his MotoGP podium tally to 109, one more than Jorge Lorenzo) – Pedrosa switched to his second bike on Lap Four and re-entered the race in eighth position. He immediately started riding at a very fast pace, fighting his way forward to second and setting the fastest lap of the race along the way.

Maverick Viñales finished third on the Factory Yamaha, one place ahead of his team-mate Valentino Rossi with Cal Crutchlow rounding out the top five on the LCR Honda.

The all-Spanish rostrum was a fitting way to honour the “Maestro” Angel Nieto, 12+1 World Champion, who passed away on Thursday.

Marquez said: “This was a very special Sunday because everyone was racing for Angel Nieto, but it was also a very challenging race. On the grid, I took the risk to use the soft rear tyre because I thought it would give me extra grip for five laps before pitting to change bikes, but it didn’t go like that.

“I soon started to struggle a lot and lost many positions. When I saw that, I decided to immediately get in and take the risk of the slicks. When I re-joined the race, honestly it was still too damp in some parts and I nearly crashed during the first lap out. When you go out for the flag-to-flag, it’s so difficult to get the feeling with the bike again, but I tried to quickly understand the grip.

“Honestly, today I took some risks but it was one of those days when you just have to do it. After pulling a great gap, I just tried to manage, to ride well, and to finish the race. I’m really very happy with the result. It’s a track I normally struggle at, one I worry about every year, and getting 25 points was very important. The Championship is still very, very tight; we must be able to be fast in every condition.”

BSB – in form Dixon claims Thruxton pole

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Jake Dixon claimed pole position for the RAF Reserves Kawasaki team with an inch perfect Superpole qualifying to win the one lap shootout for the first time at the high-speed Thruxton circuit in Hampshire.

The battle had been intense to make the top nine for the final stage of qualifying but first up was John Hopkins who headed out for Superpole with the Moto Rapido Ducati team for the first time this season. The American set a benchmark time of 1m:15.670s, which was slower than his time in Q2.

Jason O’Halloran was next to be released for his flying lap and the Australian fired the Honda Racing Fireblade ahead by 0.171s to hit the top spot with defending champion Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne up next.

The Be Wiser Ducati rider went to the top of the times with his Superpole flying lap, but clearly frustrated, Byrne didn’t stay there for long as his rivals rolled out for their attack on a Superpole time.

Tyco BMW’s Christian Iddon was ready to roll next and he moved ahead of Byrne by 0.413s to become the first rider to dip into the 1m:14s lap times in the final stage of qualifying – something that all nine of the Superpole riders achieved in Q2.

Anvil Hire TAG Yamaha’s Josh Brookes was next and the Australian had been the pace setter in the final free practice session this morning. Brookes fired himself ahead of his rivals by 0.524s with Iddon in second and Byrne in third place.

Smiths Racing BMW’s Peter Hickman has been in contention throughout free practice and he didn’t disappoint in qualifying as he moved second and 0.401s adrift of Brookes who maintained the top position.

The sole JG Speedfit Kawasaki headed out on track in the hands of Leon Haslam as Luke Mossey remains sidelined after his free practice three crash, but it was a disaster for the ‘Pocket Rocket’ as he crashed out at the chicane unhurt leaving him ninth on the grid.

Dixon was the penultimate rider to head out for his flying lap and the RAF Reserves Kawasaki rider kept his cool to launch himself ahead of Brookes and Hickman with only Dan Linfoot left to take on Superpole.

Linfoot’s flying lap put him sixth on the timesheets ahead of tomorrow’s two races at Thruxton.

MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship, Thruxton, Datatag Qualifying result:

1. Jake Dixon (RAF Reserves Kawasaki) 1m:14.052s

2. Josh Brookes (Anvil Hire TAG Yamaha) +0.204s

3. Peter Hickman (Smiths Racing BMW) +0.605s

4. Christian Iddon (Tyco BMW) +0.728s

5. Shane Byrne (Be Wiser Ducati) +1.141s

6. Dan Linfoot (Honda Racing) +1.216s

7. Jason O’Halloran (Honda Racing) +1.387s

8. John Hopkins (Moto Rapido Ducati) +1.618s

9. Leon Haslam (JG Speedfit Kawasaki)

 

MotoGP – Marquez storms to pole in Brno

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On a sunny and hot second day at Brno, Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez claimed a stunning pole position for tomorrow’s Czech Grand Prix, his fourth this season and the 69th of his career.
Team-mate Dani Pedrosa was a close third, a mere 0.046” behind Valentino Rossi on the Factory Yamaha in second and just 0.138” off his teammate.
Marquez said: “I’m very happy with today because I knew that making the pole would be tough, as I normally struggle at this track, but I tried for it anyway.
“The test we did here was useful. I felt good already with the first tyre, even if I nearly crashed as I was pushing very hard. I tried to ride smoothly but still brake hard. With the second tyre, I gave it all I had and we got this pole. I’m very, very happy.
“Tomorrow we’ll see what weather conditions we have, as it looks a bit unstable and not as warm. It will be a long, hard race but we should be able to fight for the podium in either the dry or the wet, so we’re looking forward to it and to enjoying the race.”
Both Marquez and Pedrosa had already displayed a fast pace in the FP3 session, taking P1 and P2 respectively despite suffering a crash each in the early stages, Marquez going down at Turn 10 because of an oil spill from another rider’s bike and Pedrosa sliding out at Turn 8 while pushing hard.

Tested – 2017 Honda CBR1000RR

17YM CBR1000RR Fireblade

This is the bike many fans have been waiting for, and its debut has certainly generated a lot of headlines. Lagging badly behind in WSBK, the 2017 Fireblade has also had a shocker on the road racing front – a stuck throttle saw John McGuinness lose control of his Fireblade at the NW200, with the veteran crashing out of the Superbike practice session and breaking his leg in the process. And then team-mate Guy Martin suffered a fast crash at the TT after finding a ‘box full of neutrals’ on the racebike, an incident which ultimately led to the Lincolnshire maverick quitting the team. Yet Motorcycle News awarded it best in class in its litre bike review earlier in the year, so it can’t be that bad surely? We spent a week with one to see how bad – or good – it really is.

This is the stock Fireblade, a bike which costs some £4,000 less than the SP.

The bike has the same engine, the same electronics and a similar chassis to its more expensive sibling, but there are some crucial differences – the standard Blade gets a steel tank, Showa Big Piston Forks, Tokico monoblocks and there’s also an optional quickshifter.

The big news is that the Fireblade has finally been dragged into the digital age and now features a ride by wire throttle, ride lean sensitive traction control, power modes, engine brake assist, wheelie control and cornering ABS as standard.

Twist the key and you’re greeted with a trick full-colour TFT liquid crystal dash which looks exactly the same as that used on the exotic and ultra-rare RCV. It’s right up there with the best and automatically adjusts to ambient light. There are three display modes; Street, Circuit and Mechanic. Street mode displays riding modes and the settings for power, traction control, selectable engine braking and suspension. Circuit mode adds a lap timer, number of laps and difference from the best lap, while Mechanic mode displays the digital tacho, gear position, grip angle, coolant temperature and battery voltage. Then there’s the other information such as instantaneous and average fuel economy, trip fuel consumption, average speed and it even shows the amount of fuel still remaining after the reserve light comes on. Like we said, it’s very trick and oozes quality, giving the Blade that proper ‘factory’ feel.

On the move it becomes obvious that the tweaks made to the engine have resulted in the bike lacking useful, potent grunt where you need it most – low down and in the midrange. Yes, it’s quick, without boasting the outright speed of its rivals, but you have to make the engine sing to make any progress. You’ll have to work the throttle much harder to compensate for the lack of midrange, and you’ll either love that or hate it. Either way, it’s a more involving ride than the older Blades and the linear delivery means you can now you can use all of the Blade’s power.

Unfortunately, the Euro 4 compliant exhaust doesn’t help the dynamic riding experience. It sounds muted at low speeds. Yes, it’s still got that Honda roar when feed her gears, but the tone doesn’t tug at your heart strings and urge you to open her up.

It’s not as comfortable as the model it replaces either. I’m 6’2in tall, quite lanky, and the bike feels small. It may share the same ergonomics as its predecessor, but it feels really thin. It feels more like a 600 than a thou’, and the small fairing is pretty ineffective at keeping the elements away from me.

That narrowness works in the bike’s favour once you get to the twisties. It’s so easy to ride, effortless even, and carves its way through corners with impunity. The front gives lots of feedback, and it feels planted. This feeling of control is enhanced by the full Showa suspension set-up, which does a good job of dealing with the worst the county’s roads can throw at us. And if you do need to bring things to a halt, the brakes work – they’re not savage or sharp, but they’re good enough.

And what of the dreaded false neutrals? I’m not going to lie, I experienced a few in our time together. What’s more disconcerting is the iffy throttle response – it’s hard to gauge. Sometimes it’s silky smooth, other times it’s hesitant. There’s no rhyme nor reason either – it is what it is.

Parked up at Cadwell Park I remove my helmet, grab a drink at the café, and come back to the bike and reflect on the last five days with the bike. It’s pretty enough to look at, and as you’d expect there’s plenty of the quality you’d expect of a Honda. The panels fit, the paint looks gorgeous and it really suits the bike’s lines. So it’s a looker, and it very much looks like the finished article.

But on the road, it doesn’t feel so polished. Yes, the ride is good, and yes it turns in nicely, really nicely, but it’s missing any real ‘wow’ factor. The word I keep coming back to is ‘alright’. It feels alright. Nice. Yes, it’s capable, but it lacks the sense of occasion of its rivals. It feels very much like a work in progress, which in turns makes this an expensive bike. A bike which promises much, but ultimately flatters to deceive. And that’s a shame.

Endurance racing – Yamaha Factory Racing Team writes history with third consecutive Suzuka victory

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The Yamaha Factory Racing Team wrote an incredible page in the endurance racing history after taking their third consecutive win at the 2017 Coca-Cola Suzuka 8 Hours.

It was a double celebration for the manufacturer as the The GMT94 Yamaha Official EWC Team secured the 2016-2017 FIM Endurance World Championship title after a strategic race performance.

The race itself saw lead rider Katsuyuki Nakasuga initially swallowed by the lead pack into Turn One as the race got underway, but the experienced test rider quickly began fighting his way back to the front to sit just behind the #634 bike going into the second lap. Never more than 0.1 or 0.2 seconds behind, the hunt ran on until Lap 16 when the local hero took the lead briefly before hitting heavy traffic with backmarkers and some light rain on parts of the track.The first hour was soon up and Nakasuga returned to the pits to hand the YZF-R1 over to teammate Alex Lowes.

The British rider was quick to get up to pace and was soon leading a highly competitive pack by a little over a second. Hard work saw that build to nearly four seconds before it was time to hand over to the team’s third rider, Michael van der Mark. The Dutchman put his head down and was working hard to maintain the lead built by Lowes when disaster struck for the chasing #634 bike, giving the Yamaha Factory Racing Team a big time gap at the front.

From then on, the trio were never troubled by the competition, keeping up their dominant weekend-long pace and building up to a lap clear of the rest of the pack by the end of the race. Lowes took the honour of the last hour’s ride, slightly calmer than his previous stint that saw him break the race record not once, but twice. First smashing the standing 2:07.943 with a 2:07.402, then later delivering an unbelievable 2:06.932 lap.The factory YZF-R1 crossed the line in first to the delight of the thousands of Japanese race fans present, writing a historic page in the endurance racing book with the second ever consecutive triple race win by one team in the history of the race. Nakasuga added to the honours by becoming the first Japanese rider to ever win the Suzuka 8 Hours three times in a row.

Alex Lowes said: “I’m really happy to win the Suzuka 8 Hours again, it’s a fantastic event. I was a little bit nervous in the last hour; because these two guys did a fantastic job, we had a little bit of a lead which makes you a little bit more nervous because it’s easy to lose your concentration. The Yamaha Factory Racing Team did a fantastic job, I really enjoyed the bike, I enjoyed the experience again and I’m looking forward to coming back next year to do it again!”

The GMT94 Official EWC Team started the eight-hour race from 15th on the grid with Niccolò Canepa lining up for the Le Mans dash to the #94 YZF-R1. The Italian started climbing through the order just 30 minutes into the race despite the less-than-ideal conditions with intermittent rain falling in sections of Suzuka Circuit’s west course.

The Italian then came in for the first pit stop, passing the bike to his veteran teammate David Checa, who kept up the pace set in the first hour.As the hours wound down, the French team were able to reel off consistent laps in the 2’10s as they focused not on winning the race, but on controlling the point difference to their championship title rivals.Third team rider Mike Di Meglio made a strong impression on his Suzuka debut in the Endurance World Championship, bringing the team as high as eighth before a 30-second stop-and-go penalty relegated them back to 11th.

This was still well ahead of their main title rivals, however, and the team carried on with their strategy and focused on maintaining their pace. As evening fell on the track, Checa went out for the final stint, coming in for a brief pit stop before taking the checkered flag and clinching the Endurance World Championship title, the third one to the team’s name.

Tested – Continental Race Attack

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These tyres are mind blowingly good, so good in fact that I’m still struggling to get my head around just how exceptional they are.

The tyres you see here – a soft front and an endurance compound – have just come back from three hot days on track at Jerez, and their performance is simply staggering around the circuit’s 2.75 miles of gloriously fast straights, late apex technical twists and turns.

Scrubbing in takes just one lap, and they have so much grip I’m able to push hard straight away around every single one of the 13 corners. I don’t use tyre warmers, but these tyres allow me to stay with – and ride past – those riders who are.

Once they’re up to working temperature they’re superb; they’re stable and offer supreme levels of confidence inspiring grip. And the amount of heat they generate and retain is astounding.

What did become clear as the day progressed is that they’re sensitive to pressures, and will quickly tear if over or under inflated. I thought they were cold tearing initially, but the opposite was true, and once I’d adjusted the pressure they responded straight away and came back to me.

They’re also incredibly durable. I went faster than I’ve ever been and after three blisteringly hot days on track they’re still good, despite having covered some 450 hard miles.

Recommended.

Road racing – Martin quits Honda

Guy Martin resized

Guy Martin has called time on his Honda road racing career after just six months, with the team struggling to get the new Fireblade fit for the roads.

The move is in stark contrast to the moment he joined the team earlier in the year when he was unveiled as team-mate to TT legend John McGuinness.

However, the new bike has been beset with electronic problems – John McGuinness suffered serious injuries when the throttle stuck open during Superbike qualifying at the NW200, and Martin then had a huge crash at the TT after experiencing what he described as ‘a boxful of neutrals’.

The team withdrew the bike from the TT and even though Martin tested at Cadwell a fortnight ago, he still coundn’t gel with the bike he labelled ‘a Jonah’. He said: “I went into the year right excited about the new Honda. I thought it would be great straight away and so did the team. I soon realised that it needed a lot of developing. It will be great, but it needs time and I’ve got loads of other projects going on, that I’d rather use that time for.

“I didn’t get involved to develop a bike over months and years – I was told I’d have a bike capable of winning straight away and that’s why I couldn’t turn down the opportunity.

“The TT was a bloody disaster. Aside from walking the dog and racing the Mugen, I didn’t enjoy it. It was clear even before that we were going to struggle and then it turned into me really being a test rider, which I did, but after we did more testing at Cadwell a few weeks back, I said to the team the bike won’t be competitive at the Ulster Grand Prix. They decided to withdraw me from the event, although they didn’t tell me, which is OK as the decision was made for me.

“There’s no bad feeling. Neil Tuxworth has been upfront with me from the start and it’s a shame for everyone that the new bike hasn’t worked. I know how much effort I put in and so do the team, so no regrets but I’ve got no plans to do anymore road racing on the Hondas this year.”

The father to be revealed that he will still race, but on his own terms. He said: “I’ve not given up on racing or road racing, there’s no unfinished business and I want to race classics and oddball stuff. All I’ve been thinking about recently is Pikes Peak and any spare time my brain has had is about Pikes Peak on 4 wheels. That job is down to me and if it doesn’t work, it’s my fault and I like that. Nigel Racing Corporation (NRC) current plans are preparation for Pikes Peak and classic racing but the plans can change with the wind.”

Tested – 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000

GSX-R1000R-Melbourne-Scene-(4) copy

Meet the Suzuki GSX-R1000, the bike Suzuki hopes will restore their brand image and see them return to the top of the sportsbike tree.

It has already got off to a good start – it made a winning debut in this year’s superstock class at the hands of Richard Cooper while Michael Dunlop piloted it to a win in this year’s Senior TT race. So, the package works, but just how good is it on Britain’s roads?

Looking at the bike in the flesh and the bike’s styling is dominated by THAT exhaust. Yes, the MotoGP paint is well finished, and the clocks look neat, if unspectacular, but there’s no getting away from that end can. It’s massive. Bigger than the Hubble Space Telescope. And it’s hideous too. Unfortunately, the official line from Suzuki is that they’d rather you didn’t ditch it in favour of a tasty, sleeker aftermarket item. Bummer. And then there’s the plastics. They’re very samey. Think evolution, not revolution. Shame.

Now we’ve addressed the elephants in the room, let’s get back to the bike itself. Swing a leg over the bike and the first the first thing you’ll notice is that everything feels ‘just so’. Everything fits – bars and pegs easily accommodate my 6ft 2in frame – yet the bike feels really small and compact. It feels very much like a 600 and makes you feel properly in control. It’s a neat trick.

Turn the key, watch the weirdly retro clocks do their thing, twist the throttle and the next thing you’ll notice is the exhaust note. Suzuki claims this is the most powerful, hardest-accelerating, cleanest-running GSX-R to date, and it sounds menacing. Angry even. As well as shorter-stroke dimensions, a higher compression ratio, a new valve operating system (finger followers instead of bucket tappets), this GSX-R features the MotoGP-developed SR-VVT (Suzuki Racing Variable Valve Timing). This centrifugally operated system, built into the intake cam sprocket, uses 12 steel balls and slanted grooves to rotate the sprocket and retard the intake valve timing at 10,000rpm.

A new, ride-by-wire intake system and revised ram-air system also help. The result of all that is a 14,500rpm rev limit and 199bhp peak power at 13,200rpm.

Sounds impressive enough, but words cannot do justice to just how rampant this combination feels on the open road. The bike has plenty of grunt on tap from 5,000rpm, but get the needle dancing above 10,000 rpm and the VVT system starts rotating the position of the cam sprocket on the camshaft – then you’ll feel the bike take off and accelerate like a locked-on heat seeking missile. It feels fast, really fast, so fast that you’ll have to recalibrate your mind to deal with the violent acceleration. Delivery is smooth, linear and instant – hedges fly past in blur as you scream your way to the limiter, seamlessly snicking gears thanks to the optional bi-directional quickshifter and autoblipper. It’s a pure assault on the senses – intoxicating and addictive – everything biking should be.

And that quickshifter is also worthy of praise. It’s as good as faultless. In the 1200 miles we spent together I never missed a shift or snicked a false neutral. It’s easily the best in class and far superior to the systems used by BMW, Aprilia and the likes. The fuelling is spot on too, allowing you to mete out all that power as you see fit. In fact, it’s so good that I never felt the need to try either of the two softer riding modes, both of which give a less immediate throttle response while still giving you access to all of those 199 ponies.

And then there’s the sophisticated suite of rider aids which do a good job of enhancing the riding experience. The traction control system is unobtrusive and works well. It’s divided into three categories, with levels 1 to 4 designed for the track, 5 to 8 for street riding, and 9 and 10 for wet riding conditions.

There’s no wheelie control as such, although the traction control cuts  naturally bring the front wheel down. You can even adjust the traction control on the move, but you have to roll off to select the different settings. It’s not a major inconvenience, but it’s worth pointing out.

The ride is decent too, thanks to the suspension, which is still from Showa. The Big Piston Forks are proven, while the revised, multi-adjustable shock does a good job of smoothing out the worst bumps while letting you feel exactly what is happening beneath you.

Show the GSX-R a bend and the big Suzuki’s chassis shines. Suzuki’s engineers have again turned to MotoGP for the frame design, and to this end it is 20 per cent lighter than that used in the outgoing model. And rotating the engine back in the frame by six degrees has allowed its centre of mass to be moved forward by 20mm, and this, when combined with a 20mm extended swingarm, has resulted in more weight over the front wheel. This change inspires huge levels of confidence, allowing you to enjoy the  accurate and predictable steering as you motor through the twisties.

Even the brakes – the traditional Achilles heel of every GSX-R – work. Yes, lack the savagery of a BMW S1000RR, but they’re a vast improvement on Gixxer’s of old. They’re consistent, progressive and have good ultimate stopping power.

A Gixxer has always been the weapon of choice for sporty road riders, but as the litre class moved on bikes like Aprilia’s RSV4, BMW’s S1000RR and Ducati’s Panigale meant the Gixxer suddenly felt very analogue in an age dominated by digital bikes. However, this bike is good enough to return Suzuki to the very pinnacle of the species. It really is that good, and even now, a week after I rode the bike, I’m still grinning like a loon in exactly the same way I did after my first ride. It may not be the most powerful, the fastest or the most agile, but it’s a supremely capable and confidence-inspiring motorcycle, one which has the perfect balance of rider-friendliness and blistering, exhilarating performance. Ride one and discover that intoxicating acceleration for yourself. I guarantee you’ll be smiling from ear to ear if you do.