Riding the Daytona SportBike-spec Buell 1125R

Separate-But Equal?

By Aaron Frank, Photography by Brian J. Nelson

Our ride on Richie Morris Racing's Buell 1125R started with a lot of questions, and no firm answers:
"How much does it weigh?"
"Close enough to the class minimum."
"How many horsepower?"
"Ride it and tell me what you think it makes."

And so on... It's understandable why Buell's head of race R&D, David McGrath, is so guarded. In the AMA's controversial Daytona SportBike class, where the Buell 1125cc V-twin competes directly against Japanese 600cc fours, the less you talk about hard numbers, the better.

We sampled Michael Barnes' back-up bike just before the AMA National at Road America in June. The engine is essentially stock, except for a race-kit exhaust, ECU and Suter slipper clutch. Chassis changes include a chain-drive swingarm conversion, Öhlins TTX shock and Öhlins 25mm cartridges in the stock fork legs. Magnesium wheels, fiberglass bodywork and a race subframe and fairing bracket help shave almost 100 pounds-"close enough" to the mandated 380-pound minimum. All of these parts are available over the counter, and Morris reckons you could roll your own replica for under $30K.

On track, the racer bares no resemblance to a stock 1125R. Replacement steering cups that increase rake 1 degree, plus an unspecified (but substantial) rear ride-height increase, completely change the bike's attitude. The racebike feels tall in the saddle, but turns-in quicker than the stocker, holds its line better and still manages impressive stability.

AMA Pro Road Racing recently issued a press release claiming a .49-pound-per-horsepower spread between the top-10 qualifying Daytona SportBikes at the Barber Motorsports round, implying parity between the various 600s and the mountain-motored Buells. This might be true in terms of peak power, but the big-bore Buell's massive midrange advantage was evident from the first turn. The 1125R rockets away from corners and locomotives toward the top of the tach like a proper V-twin superbike, even lofting the front wheel in fifth gear over the crest of Road America's uphill front straight. How much power do I think it makes? One-fifty at the wheel-and not a pony less.

Is the Buell a cheater, or a champion? The 1125R's undeniable off-corner advantage surely helps at point-and-shoot tracks (witness Danny Eslick's double wins at Fontana), but in terms of top speed, things seem more equal. At wide-open Road America, 600s won both races while the top-finishing Buell was fourth. Whatever the rules, the results indicate that Daytona SportBike is a surprisingly fair fight-no question about that.

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