Motorcyclist Magazine Sportbike Test - Ducati 1098, Honda CBR600RR, Yamaha R1, Kawasaki ZX6R

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Motorcyclist Magazine Class of 07 Sportbike test
Thunderhill Racetrack
April, 2007
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I rode a few laps with Aaron out there when I was on the Yamaha. He knows what he's doing. He's smooth and he finds a good line real quick. I have to admit he looked pretty good on that 1098 with his shiny new leathers and all. He's a tiny guy so when he rode by in a full tuck the whole package just worked. We were there for a few casual laps when all of the sudden Aaron's typical drone by us down the front straight sounded totally different. That 1098 jumped out onto the front straight like it owned the place. Instantly the bike seemed bigger, and Aaron seemed smaller - almost like a mouse barely clinging to a missile. He was on the pipe like never before and as he blazed by us at full tilt I quietly raised my brow and glanced toward Michael with just my eyes. Michael's arms were folded and his face wore no expression. He never said a word. I glanced the other way to Nash. He was also still, and quiet. If you had no idea what was going on at that moment, you might even have called pit lane a peaceful place right then - but you would have been wrong...

Michael Lock watching Eric Gulbransen on a 1098

There's a great view of turns three through seven from the front straight at Thunderhill. And right smack in the middle of everything is the Cyclone - a steep, pointed, four story hill that you climb from right to left (from the front straight's view), then at the very peak of the Cyclone the track turns sharp left, at which point the pavement then cascades down the left face of this abrupt hill that so proudly wears the name "Cyclone."

If you hit the Cyclone right you can charge up the face of it a lot faster than you think because the hill helps slow you down and really plants your tires into the pavement. I could tell that Aaron was discovering this trick too, because on this particular lap that Ducati 1098 took on a new sound. As he approached the crest I looked left again - not one word came from Michael. I looked right - not one word came from Nash. Aaron pressed on in the distance. I watched him lay the bike into that cresting turn like he'd done it a hundred times before. But then I noticed the bike wasn't coming back up. Instead it was suddenly sliding on it's side, with Aaron tumbling just behind. This instant must have taken an hour because I could swear I remember listening for either Michael or Nash to shout in protest, but they stood still and silent. The bike slid until it hit the outside curbing, then it launched itself about eight feet in the air and twirled upside-down. Still, no one spoke or made a single sound. Aaron seemed the best off, as he slid out of the way in a pretty harmless nature. But the 1098? That thing was headed for a nasty face plant as parts flew from it in a cartwheeling carnival of shedding blinkers and mirrors and red plastic pieces. When it finally hit, mud exploded from the impact in what seemed like the ultimate insult - not only was this 1098 now wrecked, but even worse, it was all sloppy and dirty too!

Aaron stood for a moment, staring at the now settled wreck of a 1098, and then he turned toward us with both his arms reached for the sky, almost as if to say, "Well what the hell?" I looked left - not a word. I looked right - complete silence. Then I looked back at Aaron, who seemed miles away now, and decided to break the ice... I answered, "Ummmm..... 9.5?"

This time I didn't look in either direction. Instead I just listened, for any response, from anyone. All I heard was the "Creeek, creeek, creeek" of crickets - suggesting to me that of all the times to choose to joke, this was perhaps the worst of all.

In Aaron's attempt to lift the bike back on it's wheels, his boots slipped in the mud and the two of them went down for a second time. I don't think I could have felt any worse for him than I already did that day.

Aaron Frank 1098 crash recovery

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