Aprilia RSV4 Factory APRC vs. BMW S1000RR vs. Ducati 1199 Panigale S vs. MV Agusta F4R | Class of 2012 Part II

MC Comparison

By Aaron Frank, Photography by Kevin Wing

Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa Tires

Three Out Of Four Manufacturers Choose Pirelli
WORDS: Ari Henning
PHOTO: Kevin Wing

Having testbikes on equal footing is always a priority during racetrack shootouts, and while we’d intended to put all four of these Euro-bikes on sticky race rubber, it didn’t quite work out that way. Due to Ducati’s Pirelli-or-nothing mandate that prevented us from testing the Panigale on anything other than the OEM-specific 200mm-wide rear Diablo Supercorsa, combined with a shipping snafu by Pirelli, we ended up using an ad-hoc selection of Supercorsa SP (street) rear and SC (race) front tires. The capable crew from CT Racing (www.ctracetires.com), Pirelli’s West Coast race tire supplier, wielded the tire irons during our test.

In the end, the tire combination worked out just fine. The SC fronts provided the front-end grip we needed to stay upright at race pace, while the SP rears held up for plenty of laps and let us explore the outer limits of these bikes’ traction control systems.

Pirelli’s Supercorsa SP (Special Production) tires have the same profile and carcass construction as the SC (Special Compound) race tires, but use different rubber compounds more suitable for street conditions. The Supercorsas have limited tread and a slick shoulder area for maximum traction at full lean, and feature a carefully tuned carcass construction that balances braking/acceleration stiffness with full-lean compliance. As a street tire the SPs are infallible, and they perform admirably on the track as well, with quick warm-up and very progressive slide characteristics. The SC2 fronts we used maintained the bikes’ handling (the Ducati, Aprilia and MV Agusta come with SPs stock) and promoted later braking and higher corner speeds, which are the key to fast laps at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway.

The SC DOT-approved race tires are available in SC1 (soft) and SC2 (medium) fronts through CT Racing for $188, while the SPs are sold in a single compound from authorized Pirelli dealers.


Conclusion

Comparing Japanese sportbikes is mostly a cost/benefit analysis. Those motorcycles are so alike in price and performance that picking a winner boils down to finding which one delivers more of the latter for less of the former. Comparing European machinery is more complicated. The basic platforms vary widely with regard to engine and chassis configuration, and one also has to account for style, character and other intangibles that are central to the Euro-bike experience.

MV Agusta’s F4R owns the intangible categories, and the ground-pounding Corsacorta engine is measurably great. But even an aural-sex exhaust note can’t overcome dated looks, painful ergonomics and a few outright mechanical flaws. Hopefully some modern F3 technology will trickle up to the F4 by next year’s test.

Aprilia’s all-conquering RSV4 Factory impressed again with unassailable high-speed ability, but with less outright performance than last year and no significant improvements, it’s hard to justify a win.

The Ducati 1199 Panigale S, meanwhile, is massively improved over the old 1198. While we were dazzled by the Panigale’s boundary-breaking technology, however, the final product failed to deliver on the street or the track. Just like BMW’s debut S1000RR two years ago, the first-generation Panigale suffers teething problems we hope will be tuned out by next year.

Which brings us to BMW’s most-improved S1000RR, our unanimous choice for 2012’s best Euro-bike. This second-generation uber-superbike provides heart-stopping racetrack performance in a surprisingly agreeable all-around package. The Beemer still delivers character—one run to redline proves that—but it also offers comfort, convenience, value and other attributes all the other bikes more or less lack. Not coincidentally, as this issue went to press, BMW topped its first-ever World Superbike podium, going one-two at England’s Donington Park. It probably won’t be long until the German manufacturer joins its Italian rivals on the World Champion roster.  MC

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