Track Aprilia :: 84 pts.
Aprilia The RSV4 R dash is...
The RSV4 R dash is identical to the Factory model we tested in the October '09 issue, with the analog tachometer near center above the LCD panel, which has an easily read layout. The R model lacks the adjustable steering head angle of the Factory, as well as its Öhlins suspension, a definite factor in performance.
To say that we were surprised at the RSV4 R's showing at a circuit like Infineon is an understatement. The undulating, twisty layout should play right into the hands of an agile, small, and relatively powerful bike like the Aprilia, but some factors ended up throwing a wrench in the works. Make no mistake, the RSV4 R has most of the ingredients to make a superb track tool-it's just that those elements didn't quite coalesce as hoped.
We were definitely missing...
We were definitely missing the Öhlins fork from the Factory version of the RSV4, as the Showa unit just wasn't up to snuff.
The same 250-like size and agility displayed on the street was even more of an advantage in some areas of the track-take a look at the apex speeds for the Turn 6 downhill Carousel turn for proof. The RSV4 R feels so small and compact that some of the turns seem larger than before, as if you had more room to play with; and the chassis's razor-sharp steering seemingly allows you to put the Aprilia anywhere you want with little effort. The V-4 engine's strong midrange permits you to carry tremendous corner speed, and even set in the more aggressive Track mode, the smooth off-idle throttle response means you can get on the throttle early to generate good exit speed. The Brembo brakes are plenty strong with decent feel, and the Aprilia's slipper clutch eases corner entry significantly.
Unfortunately, the same inconsistent powerband that we noticed on the street was even more of a hindrance on a track like Infineon. The RSV4 R would positively leap off the corners, only to have its acceleration taper off early as it hit the aforementioned flat spot at 10,000 rpm, and waiting for the engine to get over that dip cost time and speed; a look at the GPS track speed graph shows the Aprilia to have the lowest mph at the end of many straights. Also holding the RSV4 R back was the suspension's rather coarse action that made for a sketchy ride in all but the smoothest sections of the track, as well as its excessive heft-at 473 pounds fully fueled, the Aprilia is only outweighed by the four-pound-heavier Yamaha.
Track Yamaha :: 92.5 Pts.
Yamaha Basically the same...
Basically the same as last year, the R1's dashboard is one of the best designs, with a shift light positioned above the tachometer and an easy-to-read LCD panel (although again, the YCC-T progressive graph is hokey; that space could be better used). Mirrors are probably the best of the bunch.
Our past track experience with the R1 showed us that there's plenty of potential there for a bike that can shake up convention on inline-fours, but two key issues conspire to blunt that promise: the Yamaha's excessive heft (spotting the Honda CBR more than 35 pounds!) and its lack of top-end power. And while those two issues become an annoyance on the street, they are positively frustrating on the track.
Interestingly, reviews were...
Interestingly, reviews were mixed on the R1's six-piston caliper setup, with some feeling they worked well, and others still hating the brake pad compound (yeah, that's you, Olsen...).
On the sections that don't emphasize outright horsepower, the R1 can more than hold its own. In any partial-throttle acceleration situations through slow-to-medium speed corners, the Yamaha's midrange throttle response and superb throttle-to-rear-tire connection excels at allowing the rider to feed in just the right amount of power and gain the best drive possible. "This is one area where the Yamaha shines," said "Trizzle" Siahaan. "Its crossplane crankshaft delivers power in such a predictable manner, making it really easy to ride." Suspension rates seemed well suited for the track, with the separate-damping Soqi fork (one leg controls compression damping and the other rebound damping) and rear shock offering good wheel and chassis control.
Unfortunately, as speeds rose, so did the Yamaha's disadvantages. "Even on a track with short straights like Infineon," wrote Olsen in his notes, "the Yamaha clearly runs out of steam." Add the double-whammy of a 477-pound wet weight, and you have a bike that starts to become hard work to hustle around a roller-coaster of a track like Infineon. The R1's ultra-tall first gear would usually be an advantage at a racetrack, but not this time; it was too tall for Infineon's slower hairpins, killing the drive out, and we also ran into an issue with missed downshifts into first gear until the cause (proper linkage arm angle on the shift shaft after moving the footpeg brackets to their higher position) was discovered late in the test. Interestingly, Olsen still hated the front brake pads, while the others had no complaints.