In the sport of boxing, Muhammad Ali is widely regarded as the greatest of all time. His upsets against Sonny Liston, George Foreman and Joe Frazier easily cemented his place among boxing greats. Using charm, showmanship and a confidence bordering on arrogance, he was expected to win each time he strapped on his gloves-which he usually did. However, when athletes are at the top of their game they can become complacent and fail to train with necessary gusto or correctly evaluate their opponent. This is when upsets usually occur. For example, 1975: Muhammad Ali was slated to fight Chuck Wepner, a definite underdog in the sport. During the fight Ali was up to his usual antics, taunting his challenger and dancing around the ring-that is, until Wepner landed a punch that sent Ali to the mat. Ali quickly came to his senses and knocked Wepner down for the count.
What does any of this have to do with motorcycles, you ask? Well, in many circles Suzuki's GSX-R750 is a favored son, the Muhammad Ali of sportbikes, if you will. Although it doesn't really have much competition, we're glad Suzuki has stuck to its heritage and is keeping the bike alive. Many critics (ourselves included) have praised previous versions of the bike as being the best compromise between a 600 and 1000. Its light and nimble chassis acts like a 600, and the 750 engine is just shy of reaching warp speed-unlike its literbike brethren. We like that.
Being alone in a class of one is rather boring, so we decided to test the venerable Ducati 848 alongside the Suzuki. If you've been reading SR for a while, dig into your stash of old magazines and see if you can find the last time we pitted the GSX-R750 against the 848's predecessor, the 749. It hasn't been done. The old model was best suited to run against 600cc machinery, but now that Ducati has upped the ante with the 848 we wanted to see if this new challenger could top our favorite. On paper this looks like an easy win for the 'Zook, but numbers only tell half the story. Thus the fight is on. In the blue corner we have the Suzuki. In the red corner sits the Ducati. Our venue for this evening is our home track: Buttonwillow Raceway. The gloves worn by both of our contenders are the Avon Viper Xtremes (see sidebar on page 64 for more information).
We've already covered the details of both bikes in previous issues, so we won't bore you with that this time around. El Jefe Kunitsugu was all smiles during his first ride on the Suzuki at Willow Springs ("Lone Wolf," Jul. '08), while friend of the magazine Lance Holst was beaming after riding the 848 at the intro in Almeria, Spain ("Sweet Forgiveness," Apr. '08). Furthermore, FNG Siahaan had plenty of time to get acquainted with the Ducati during his combined street and track test in the Jul. '08 issue ("Stepping out of the Shadows"). So without further ado-let us begin!