by Staff
We’re committed to finding, researching, and recommending the best products. We earn commissions from purchases you make using links in our articles. Learn more here

Thunderhill Park Raceway, CA -- Your fingers ache from the strain of holding yourself forward against the vicious acceleration even though it's only been four seconds since you rocketed off the last corner. The digital speedometer says 154, then 161, then... just a second, as you grab a fistful of brakes and bend the bike into Turn One. The asphalt is smoother near the apex and it takes some extra effort to force your head down to the inside, as your neck muscles fight the 110 mph windblast. You gently roll the throttle on and the bike is happy to stay at the current 45 degree lean angle, but it's acceleration you're after and this tire isn't going to put any more power down unless it's a bit more upright. That expert club racer with the single-digit number plate is making good time on his four-year-old R1, but you're catching him fast as you set-up for the long 180 degree Turn Two.

You bare your teeth inside your Arai as you anticipate the pass you're going to put on him at the exit. He rolls out of Turn Two hard on the throttle, but you're already deeper and harder into the gas, so you pass him and pull an extra 20 feet diving into the next bend. He doesn't know what hit him as he bobs in your wake, watching as a brand new machine with turn signals, stock exhaust and mirrors blasts past him into Turn Three.

Sounds impressive, doesn't it? It certainly is, when you consider that you're riding the slowest bike in this shootout.

manufacturer 2005 open supersport shootout 14756
manufacturer 2005 open supersport shootout 14756
manufacturer 2005 open supersport shootout 14756
manufacturer 2005 open supersport shootout 14756
manufacturer 2005 open supersport shootout 14756
We all know that it isn't what you ride; it's how you ride. At least we knew that up until last week, when testing for this year's Open Supersports test began. But now, we're not so sure. You're probably sick of hearing just how outstanding modern sportbikes have become, as each year sees further refinement of the previous year's groundbreaking designs. The pace of development has been increasing lately and our 2005 Open Class Shootout makes it clear that the days of resting on your Bold New Graphics are long gone.

To help us determine which bike is the best, we gathered together Suzuki's all-new GSX-R1000, the reigning MO Champion of the World Honda CBR1000RR, the lightly-updated ZX-10R from Kawasaki, and Yamaha's venerable R1. We loaded these bikes into our luxurious five-ton crew cab box truck along with leathers, helmets, gloves, boots, tools, cameras, 70's music, enough tires to choke a horse and departed Torrance for points north.

manufacturer 2005 open supersport shootout 14756, Lance Keigwin Trackday Guru possessor of amazing motorhome
Lance Keigwin, Trackday Guru, possessor of amazing motorhome.
The track portion of this year's shootout was conducted at Thunderhill Park Raceway near Willows, CA, where we were graciously hosted by Lance Keigwin and his crew are absolutely some of the nicest folks we've worked with on a shootout and MO enthusiastically recommends their program as one of the track, we took advantage of the beautiful rolling terrain surrounding most competent and professionally run we've encountered. The road course at Thunderhill is a 3 mile, 15 turn roller coaster with several corners that are off-camber and/or blind. It's a smooth, 36-foot wide racetrack with copious run-off room, fast straights, technical tight turns and an ideal place to thoroughly wring out liter-sized bikes.

On our first evening in Northern California, prior to riding at the Willows to get street impressions of each bike. As it turned out, we got a slightly more adventurous evening ride than we'd planned with rain, darkness, a very large tumbleweed and numerous errant four-legged denizens of the night along for the ride.

After our nighttime blitz in the foothills west of I-5, we were prepared to declare MO as perhaps the most highly qualified publication on the planet to judge the spectral characteristics and brightness of the headlights on this year's crop of bikes and, along the same lines, the emergency stopping power and agility on wet roads for all four of the contenders.

Votes: Finals on Street
We scored the bikes 5 pts. for 1st, 3 for 2nd, 2 for 3rd and 1 for 4th.
Sean AlexanderMartin HackworthPete BrissetteGabe Ets-HokinPoints
Suzuki GSX-R3rd1st2nd2nd13
Yamaha YZF-R11st4th4th1st12
Honda CBR 1000RR4th2nd1st4th10
Kawasaki ZX-10R2nd3rd3rd3rd9
Your results may vary. Some Restrictions Apply. Not valid for certain residents of Washington State.
manufacturer 2005 open supersport shootout 14756
Our first afternoon (Monday) at Thunderhill was used as a combination sighting session and as an opportunity to circulate the track on OEM tires. Thanks to the folks at Bridgestone, we had ten sets of the brand new BT 002 DOT race tires stashed for when the action heated up. We chose the T3 "medium" compound fronts and T2 "hard" compound rears and eagerly levered them onto our spare rims for two days of racetrack testing. It should be noted that the T2 compound BT 002 is an extremely hard compound that is meant to last under extreme conditions. Since we were going to be swapping these bikes between four riders and lapping them almost continuously throughout the test, we felt it was a good idea to sacrifice outright grip for durability and consistency.

During our two days at Thunderhill, we drew quite a crowd to the north end of the paddock where MO was ensconced for the duration of the track portion of the test. This year we were supported by a veritable army of OEM technicians including Scott "The Stud" Buckley of Kawasaki, Chuck Welch of Suzuki and Jon Siedel, Bob Oman and Doug Toland of Honda. We were joined by Van (aka bmw4vww) Washburn who showed up to lend a hand during the test and several interesting luminaries who stopped by to say howdy.

Votes: Finals on Track
We scored the bikes 5 pts. for 1st, 3 for 2nd, 2 for 3rd and 1 for 4th.
Sean AlexanderMartin HackworthPete BrissetteGabe Ets-HokinPoints
Honda CBR 1000RR4th1st3rd1st13
Kawasaki ZX-10R3rd3rd1st3rd11
Suzuki GSX-R1st4th2nd2nd12
Yamaha YZF-R12nd2nd4th4th8
Your results may vary. Some Restrictions Apply. Not valid for certain residents of Washington State.

All good things must come to an end and after an all-too-brief stay in the lush hills of the Northern San Joaquin Valley we had to make tracks back to SoCal to MO's Torrance headquarters and a rendezvous with our laptop computers. Along the way back, we headed over to Palmdale for a final street impression in the foothills near Lake Elizabeth, then onto LACR for a cold evening of wheelies and three-gear wheel spins down the quarter-mile-long drag strip.

It was a long week, with lots of work (as usual), several friends new and old, almost more excitement that even we can handle, and more fun than any reasonable human being has a right to expect. And at the end of it all, we had a pretty clear consensus as to the winner. So, without any further ado, ladies and gentlemen, the featured event on this card, the 2005 MO Open class shootout. Let the games begin!

Meet the TestersPete Brissette - MO Contributing Editor
34 Yrs Old, 5'8", 150Lbs
manufacturer 2005 open supersport shootout 14756
Pete is a seasoned veteran of four MO shootouts over the last couple of years. Originally from Michigan, Pete immigrated to California via a stint in Alaska about 12 years ago but is now a genuine LA kind of guy - at least as much as one can be without owning a car, or until recently, a cell phone.

Pete is a very experienced street rider and novice club racer (we chronicled Pete's entrée into club racing in our first "Out of the Canyons" feature back in February). Aside from being one of the most genuinely useful folks who lend a hand at MO, Pete is also an occasional truck driver for the film industry and a motorcycle courier who has miraculously survived nine years on the streets and freeways of LA. Along with optimism, mechanical skills and lots of elbow grease, Pete brings the everyman perspective to our shootouts. He currently uses most of his personal income suppressing videotaped evidence of MO's initiation "ceremony."

Gabe Ets-Hokin - MO Features Editor
35 Yrs Old, 5'6", 145Lbs

manufacturer 2005 open supersport shootout 14756
Visceral wordsmith, master of lingual subjugation and MO's very own Profferer of Manifestos, Gabe is widely known by readers of the MO feedback forums by his nom de guerre MR ALLCAPS. He is an articulate and very funny motorcycle journalist with a wide range of credentials. Originally from and still a native of San Francisco, CA, Gabe has six seasons of AFM racing experience under his belt and has previously served as a motorcycle riding coach and track day instructor.

Gabe is well qualified to evaluate motorcycles. He is a highly skilled rider, has been an industry rep and has extensive experience in motorcycle sales. He has a very useful ability to get straight to the point (something in short supply around here), possesses a quick wit, and is generally a smart guy. He is worried that someday, somebody will figure it out and pay him what he is actually worth.

Sean Alexander - MOron
36 Yrs Old, 6'2", 225Lbs

manufacturer 2005 open supersport shootout 14756
Sean is our resident velocity guy -- both in terms of his his performance on the track and his stream of consciousness monologs. Born and raised around the Yoshimura Racing shop in Simi Valley, CA, Sean has riding and racing credentials out the wazoo. Simply put, SA has as much natural ability on a motorcycle as just about anyone that we know. He's a former CCS champion with numerous trophies adorning the walls of his office at MO. He will be more than happy to give you the full Betamax on how he scored every one of them. Just ask.

Dirty brings years of useful experience to our shootouts, garnered from a lifelong lifestyle wringing every ounce of performance out of an eclectic stable of motorcycles, Porsches, Corvettes, sailbots, yachts, CR500s, PSP Playstations and any other toy it's possible for an overgrown boy to blow wads of cash on. He also brings the dorm party, a great skill at character voices, an impressive supply of hair care products (that would be one bottle of gel, which is considered a lot when you're from Idaho where soap was recently introduced), a beautiful set of leathers, lots of enthusiasm, the body of a genius and the mind of an ape.

Martin Hackworth - MO Feature Writer
48 Yrs Old, 6'3", 200Lbs

manufacturer 2005 open supersport shootout 14756, Gorillas can type
Gorillas can type!
Martin is our GPTB (Grey PonyTail Brotherhood) tester from the sticks. Originally from Kentucky, Martin moved to Idaho 13 years ago and is perfectly content to ride dirtbikes out the back gate of his farm to access endless mountain trails. Martin is a Senior Lecturer in Physics at Idaho State University and teaches astronomy, optics, acoustics, engineering physics and this semester, a course on motorcycle physics. He is currently doing preliminary work on a textbook that will include extensive references to motorcycle chassis and engine dynamics.

In addition to being our token hillbilly, Martin brings his experience as both a researcher and manager of large projects to MO tests (along with an encyclopedic knowledge of every popular song lyric of the last 50 years). Martin is an expert-level club racer, has several hundred thousand miles of street experience under his belt, and has logged countless hours on his XR600R. Martin is a former climbing guide -- with many first- and only ascents to his name -- ski instructor, bicycle racer, audio engineer, has written several books and a slew of magazine articles about climbing and concert sound. Singer and guitarist for 5-11 Jimmy, Martin is perenially getting some band back together. He also dresses like a concert roadie, giving him immense credibility when loading the truck.

Alphonse "Fonzie" Palaima - MO Graphics Writer
34 Yrs Old, 5'9", 165Lbs

manufacturer 2005 open supersport shootout 14756, Your intrepid photographer Fonzie s backside Portrait by SisterMaryKim This is what happens when you bring unwed nubile Catholic chicks to the track
Your intrepid photographer Fonzie's backside. Portrait by SisterMaryKim. This is what happens when you bring unwed, nubile Catholic chicks to the track!.
You can call him Al, but we don't because our unloved Fonzie is the unsung hero of MO, the veritable leg that supports this teepee -- Al takes all the pictures (thus not getting to ride at the cool tracks), shoots the videos, organizes, doesn't forget anything because he packs everything and then gets to come back to MO to edit the videos, create the graphics, lay out the story, sort the pictures and generally slave away in the BlackHole of Time (that'd be MO, it's amazing how much and how quickly time flies by inside the poorly drywalled abode that is Motorcycle.Com's Torrance office park headquarters). For Fonzie 2:00 to 3:00 am nights are the norm, which is okay because he shows up around noon -- right in time for the infamous MO lunch parties -- everything, and we mean everything, is decided at lunch around here.

While a great work ethic -- and the ability to manage MO Editorial Egos to a tee -- is a huge asset, Fonzie's greatest skill may just be his inate CheeseyPuff'Dar that he so luckily possesses. Fonzie's always got the good snacks, and who ever remembers to bring such a silly item as food to the track?

manufacturer 2005 open supersport shootout 14756 Staff Staff

More by Staff

Join the conversation