Ducati Diavel vs. Star V-Max | MC Comparo

Smoking Guns

By Tim Carrithers, Photography by Kevin Wing

Nobody needs to explain these things. They’re hot-rods, and any hot-rod worthy of the name speaks a universal language. Visual. Powerful. Visceral. Loud. Hopefully cool, and above all, quick. From its origins on the dry lakebeds of 1930s Southern California, it's a language that has been redefined and retranslated countless times with consistently inconsistent results. Some look better than they work. Others have the opposite effect. Where Ducati’s Diavel and Yamaha's Star V-Max slot in depends on your personal performance aesthetic. But despite striking physical and philosophical differences, they are two ways of saying the same thing boys and—if they’re really honest— girls have been saying since fifth grade: I’m stronger/faster/quicker/cooler than you.

Someone else’s way of being all that could be miles from yours, but you know it when you see it. And so it is with the Diavel and the V-Max: two divergent expressions of the two-wheeled alpha hot-rod. One from Italy. One from Japan. One slinky eight-valve V-twin trying to one-up a sledgehammer of a 16-valve V4.

Which one is cooler? We’ll leave that up to you and concentrate on settling the stronger/faster/quicker question if that’s okay. And we’ll settle it the way such things have been settled for centuries: head to head. Mano a mano. One on one. At the dragstrip, where timing slips do the talking and bovine excrement walks away to take another call.

Welcome to Grudge Night, or in this case the Twilight NHRA Street Legal Drags at Auto Club Dragway in Fontana, California. Two bikes, two qualified triggermen and a staggering assortment of adrenaline-dependent humanity pulling the trigger on a more staggering assortment of hot-rods. We learned plenty about this pair on and off the strip, from the enlightening to the unmentionable and all points in between. Some things you’d expect. Others you won’t. And everything happens in a hurry. As it turns out, picking between the two is easier than dreaming either one up in the first place, but not by much.

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