Ducati 1198S: 89 points
Six-footers loved the Ducati's...
Six-footers loved the Ducati's spacious ergos, although everyone hated the Marelli LCD panel, as the bar-graph tach is too difficult to discern at a glance (especially in daylight), and toggling between menus can be tedious; mirrors are useless.
The addition of DTC to the 1198S is a welcome supplement to the Ducati's already formidable performance array, and with the faster turns of the racetrack canceling out its tendency to wheelie in the lower gears, you have the makings of one seriously quick V-twin - provided you ride it to its strengths. With a chassis/suspension combo that offers such superb front-end feedback, maintaining high corner entry and midcorner speeds is relatively easy. Couple that with a monster midrange that puts all the fours to shame (take a look at the dyno graphs), and it's clear the 1198S can make major time in the corners. The Ducati's abundance of quick-revving torque really does require and make use of the DTC, which helps avoid the rear tire slip/windup chassis gyrations that would plague the 1198 if the tire wasn't hooking up that well.
The downside to the Ducati's massive torque reserves is that it runs out of breath up top compared to the four-cylinder machines. With wide gear spacing necessitated by the short rev range (the rev-limiter cuts in at 10,200 rpm) and a powerband that starts tailing off at 9000 rpm, this means that watching your shift points is critical to avoid losing forward momentum. The problem is that the Marelli LCD instrument panel's bar-graph tachometer is extremely difficult to discern at a glance in broad daylight, and the LED shift lights are too small to be of any help, especially on a track like Buttonwillow where the turns come at you in rapid-fire succession.
The Ducati can get around the track quickly - it just takes a lot of work, almost as much as a 600.
BMW S 1000 RR: 92 points
The BMW instrument setup is...
The BMW instrument setup is similar to the Aprilia's, with an easy-to-read-at-a-glance layout that doesn't overload you with information; mirrors are actually functional, and the fairing provides halfway decent wind protection.
It's easy to surmise that a bike with 176 horsepower and competent chassis/brakes would be the dominant player on the racetrack in this test. Anytime the track opens up and you're able to tap into the S 1000 RR's beast of an engine, the difference in power and acceleration is about as noticeable as a 2x4 to the forehead. But it's not just all about power with the Beemer; the chassis and suspension do a superb job of herding all that speed around the track with surprising aplomb.
The S 1000 RR isn't the most agile literbike around, but it holds it own; and while the Sachs suspension may not be equal to the Öhlins components on the Ducati and Aprilia, they're easily more than adequate for the task. With the DTC/Race ABS set in Race or Slick mode with a rider of appropriate skill aboard, the BMW can generate tremendous drives off corners by harnessing the engine's incredible power just enough to keep the rear tire hooked up and driving forward.
But it's the Race ABS that probably ended up holding it back from its absolute potential in this crowd. Although its intervention threshold in Slick mode is set very high - and its actual intervention very transparent when activated - it appears to take just enough of an edge off maximum braking to lose time compared to the others. But even if we'd shut off the ABS, that's no guarantee it would have set the quickest time. And had it done so, would that have made a difference in the final rankings? In examining the evaluation sheets, probably not.