The Kawasaki's dash layout...
The Kawasaki's dash layout is typical Japanese fare - well thought-out, easy to read (white-faced tach is nice) with relevant information at your fingertips; another typical Japanese trait - functional mirrors.
Kawasaki ZX-6R: 85 points
Don't get the wrong impression from the Kawasaki's rankings; one look at the lap times is adequate evidence of the ZX-6R's potential, and its ability to keep pace with this group even on a track with fast corners.
As long as you're willing and able, the Kawasaki's engine can help you generate good drives off the corners that can keep the others well within reach. Granted, you need to keep the tachometer needle floating above 9000 rpm at all times (and preferably at 11,000-plus rpm) to maintain that speed, but it's all in a day's work for a 600, right? One of the advantages of a 600 is that throttle control isn't quite as critical as with the literbikes, so you're often able to carry higher corner speed due to minute throttle movements having less of an effect on the chassis.
Corner entry is aided by the Kawasaki's excellent slipper clutch that prevents engine braking from intruding on bike control, while the superb front brakes allow you to move your braking markers that much deeper due to their power, responsiveness, and feel. Being the lone 600, the ZX-6R was easiest of the group to flick from side to side in the esses, or carve into the ultra-fast Riverside turn, making up some time on the literbikes.
That said, the Aprilia wasn't that far off the Kawasaki as far as agility; "Chassis never was the best of the 600s, and in this company [the Kawasaki's] flaws were that much more pronounced," wrote Trizzle in his notes. Used to be that 600s had a marked advantage over literbikes when it came to quick handling; that gap is shrinking ever smaller.
MV Agusta F4: 88 Points
While the MV Agusta also has...
While the MV Agusta also has the full LCD instrument panel, its higher contrast made it easier to see during sunlight hours, although the bar-graph tach is still frustrating; and another typical Italian trait - useless mirrors.
"I could sit and look it for hours without ever even starting it," wrote tester Eric "Pepsi" Nugent about the MV, "but [eventually] we put the beauty glasses aside and ride." Although the F4's real advancement was made with the F4 1000 R version back in '06, this latest incarnation of the MV Agusta flagship is a quantum leap forward in terms of racetrack performance over past versions that had attractive styling but not much else compared to other sportbikes at the time.
With 157 horsepower on tap, the MV is certainly not lacking for steam, and its linear powerband and much smoother throttle response means that accessing that power in a corner is easier than ever. And with the addition of the Mk II traction control system (using a rate-of-change algorithm instead of wheel speed sensors), the snappy nature of the engine is less of a liability when driving off a corner. The system is very transparent in the lower (less intervention) settings, with none of the "throttle lag" feel that you get with some of the other systems.
Steering habits are sharp and precise, with good stability through the fast stuff, although some of the nastier bumps at Buttonwillow would sometimes feed back into the chassis and upset things a bit. Brakes were very powerful, but lacking a little on feel toward the limit, and the short, slippery footpegs became more of an annoyance on the track. The MV also noticeably lost speed quicker than the others anytime you rolled out of the throttle the slightest bit. Still, the MV is no doormat at the track as evidenced by its lap time; but the aforementioned issues dragged down its ranking in this tough crowd.