Zero to 100mph to Zero

So what if your motorbike is over 10 years old, it will still demolish a £150,000 supercar away from a set of traffic lights

We gate crashed Autocar magazine's annual 0-100-0 contest and brought along a selection of second-hand motorbikes to see just how cheaply you can wipe the floor with the fastest, most expensive cars in the world. The test is very simple: monster acceleration from a standstill to 100mph to test the engine's performance, followed by monster deceleration from 100mph to standstill to test the brakes. Invariably the bikes murder the cars under full thrust, but the cars slaughter the bikes in the braking section. It's a fantastic real-world test and a great benchmark of performance.

On a bike, you want to bring the revs to 7,000rpm, right foot on the ground, left hooked under the gear lever ready to engage second, lean forward and let the clutch out. Don't just dump it, slip the clutch for the first few metres, just enough to get the bike moving fast before fully disengaging it and opening the throttle to the stop. Forget what's ahead, the runway is clear of traffic, instead concentrate on the engine's exhaust note.

At around 5,000rpm the engine bogs, even with the throttle fully open, so you need to slip the clutch slightly to bring the power back in and get it over this dip. At 8,000rpm the main chunk of power surge announces its arrival by hauling the front wheel off the ground. Allow it to rise for two feet without backing off the throttle before short-shifting into second to bring the front down to earth again. Don't use the clutch. Then hold the throttle open. Pin it to the stop, stretch the throttle cables if you have to. Focus on the speed-reading V-Box data system taped to the fuel tank.

Wait for 100mph to flash up and then grit your teeth. Get the front loaded up first to squash the tyre into the crumbling tarmac, then a fraction of a second later pull on the brake lever as hard as possible. Knees gripping the tank and arms tensed, the whole bike sways from side to side. It's not until 30mph the rear tyre lifts completely and when the speed hits zero it crashes back to the ground. At this point you realise you've been holding your breath for the last five seconds, and you finally exhale. Going flat-out on two wheels has never been so satisfying...

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odd weaponry collection

Looking at the slightly motley collection of bikes in front of me I have to admit I'm a little embarrassed. As the car guys stroll around polishing their Porsche GT3, Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera, Ford GT40 and other such exotica, I'm unloading a £1,500 Yamaha Thunderace, 1984 Katana 1100 and Honda Goldwing from the back of the van. My initial credibility when I showed up on the GSX-R1000 K7 is gradually being eroded as my ever-increasingly odd selection of weaponry is unveiled. I'm firing blanks.

Our long-time friends at Autocar invited us (we didn't really gatecrash) to their 0-100-0 test at Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground. We've attended for the last few years on the latest and greatest sportsbikes, always beaten the car times by a few seconds then returned home only to read in Autocar how some 'road legal' drag car with a parachute to stop it or a race car with headlights attached was the quickest vehicle on the day.

But it's one thing to beat them on a brand new GSX-R1000, that is what you'd expect after all, but what about the older bikes? What about classics and touring bikes, any motorcycle is quick compared to a car but we wanted to find how far could we push that formula. We wanted to see if a cheap old Yamaha really could out-perform a £150,000 Lambo, and test how a legendary Suzuki Katana 1100 would fair against an equally legendary (although strangely brand new) Ford GT40. Could a monstrous great Goldwing really out-pace a snarling Porsche GT3?

I lined up at the launch line on the Wing against the gorgeous new Porsche to see how quickly 363kg of mega tourer could complete the task. Flat-six versus flat-six, one with the engine in the middle and one with the engine way out the back. One a civilised touring machine and the other a racer with lights, the lights went green and I dumped the clutch.

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the half-ton tourer

Surprisingly for such a big machine the front wheel did hop slightly into the air but then the enormous or torque took over and we were off. Two-up and with judicial use of the clutch a GL1800 Goldwing will in fact wheelie like a good 'un, but here it was all about putting power to the ground and there was no time for such silliness. There isn't a technique as such for getting the Wing to go fast, just hold it open and keep some upwards pressure on the gear lever to stop it hopping out of gear.

This is a half-ton tourer and its gearbox isn't designed for racing quick shifts. With Steppenwolf blaring from the stereo the Goldwing was bloody quick up to 85mph, but the last 15mph seemed to take an age and the Porsche was always ahead. I kept him fairly keen until after 70mph, at which point the GT3 just dug in and shot off, showering me with stones as he went, bastard. By the time my box of tricks on the tank was telling me I'd hit a genuine 100mph, the supercar was already four seconds ahead.

Ah, the delights of both combined brakes and ABS. There is no finesse to slowing a Wing down either, just grab every lever you can find and hold on tight. With the ABS pulsing on and off the mighty Wing ground to a fairly rapid stop, albeit with a horrible smell of burning and melting hotness from the brakes. With the Porsche driver giving me a little wave as we headed back to the start point, the result came in. A fairly impressive total time of 19.7sec with 12.8sec to get to 100mph and 7.0sec to return to stationary again, not enough to stay with the Porker but more than enough to leave any hot hatch car such as a Mini Cooper-S, Civic Type-R or VXR Corsa gasping in its wake. A  £17,499 Goldwing will have some fairly flash cars off the lights, but it costs virtually the same as those cars as well, so how about something a bit cheaper? Enter the 23-year-old Katana.

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wielding the Katana

The Katana still looks as crazy as it did all those years ago. A few of the older members of the office were going all misty-eyed about the Katana (pronounced Kat-ar-nah not Kat-anna as I had been continuously told) but I'm not convinced, it just looks a bit too fussy to me. With its 'radical' (in 1985) anti-dive forks, 96bhp engine, enormous 232kg weight and 19-inch cross-ply front tyre the Suzuki would surely be in trouble when up against some of the latest cars.

So instead we pitched it against a stunningly beautiful Ford GT40 made by Superformance in the USA. This car is an exact re-make of the 1968 classic, and lining up against the burbling V8 it was a helluva sight, two legends together on the grid. Despite being so old, the Katana still got a good shift away from the line. The air-cooled 1,075cc engine is similar to the early GSX-R1100s and with a claimed 110bhp it was bloody fast in its time. But not today. It took 13.5-sec to get to 100mph, the GT40 hauling ahead on my left with that glorious engine tone blaring in my ears.

The brakes were ghastly on the Katana, the spindly forks diving for the floor and the tiny 255mm discs struggling to slow us effectively, although the Katana did slither to a halt in less time than the Wing with the brake lever flat against the bar. But despite its venerable age and 116kg separating the two bikes only 0.1 seconds split the Goldwing and Katana in this test, which was good enough to beat cars such as an Audi S3, Renault Megane Cup, Honda Civic Type-R or the Mini Cooper-S. But after my outright victory on the K7 GSX-R, I had been beaten twice by the cars and I didn't like it. Grr.

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And so to the bargain basement bike on the test, Yamaha's Thunderace. While the Honda and GSX-R were brand new and the Katana's value surprisingly high due to demand for these classics, £1,500 will get you a decent example of Yamaha's slightly porky answer to the Fireblade. When it was launched in 1996 the 'Ace was a bit out of its depth against the sportier 'Blade with a genuine 130bhp on tap, but even 11 years later it can still hold its head up high. She's a big girl (Yamaha's claim of 198kg was blatantly a lie) but it certainly shifts.

I lined up alongside an Audi R8, Audi's answer to the Porsche 911. I'm not a car buff but this is one seriously saucy motor, and I didn't fancy my chances. Launching the bike was simple, only a small wheelie but basically its length and weight kept everything on the ground meaning that the throttle could remain pinned through first and second gear, unlike the GSX-R1000. The engine makes an enormous amount of midrange and is so smooth. It drives towards the red line with pure grunt doing all the work.

To my astonishment, the Thunderace forged ahead of the Audi, leaving the car spluttering in my wake. Although it felt fast it wasn't until I saw the results I realised just how fast the elderly Yamaha was. The 'Ace was only a second slower 0-100mph than the K7 GSX-R, managing it in 6.7 seconds compared to the Suzuki's 5.4sec. How impressive is that? The Audi was already toast - and then it came to the brakes.

In 1997 the Thunderace was Yamaha's flagship sportsbike, which meant it got the best brakes at the time. Those anodised four-piston calipers were deemed good enough for the R1 when it arrived one year later, and despite rubber brake lines that were bulging beyond their best and a slightly shonky front tyre, it still managed to stop in just 5.1 seconds, only 0.6 slower than the GSX-R. The final count for the old Yamaha was a total 0-100-0mph time of 11.8 seconds, which murdered the wheezing Audi by nearly four seconds, at the same time annihilating every car on the test apart from the Ariel Atom. Absolutely unbelievable - I was amazed.

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goodbye to the flash motors

So the simple fact of the matter is that a £1,500 Thunderace spanked every single car in this test. From the £150,000 Lambo to the 'cheap' £90,000 GT3 Porsche, none are safe from a relatively gutsy rider on a decade-old machine. We did absolutely nothing special to this Thunderace, we simply plucked it off DK Motorcycles' showroom floor, stuck some fuel in it and went racing.

So next time someone in a flash motor has a go, rest in the knowledge that for 1% of his purchase price you can open a can of whoop-ass on him. Well, until the next set of lights, anyway.

What car would your bike beat?

Make                              0-100-0   0-100    100-0
Suzuki GSX-R1000         9.9           5.4         4.5
Ariel Atom                       11.35        6.79       4.28
Yamaha Thunderace      11.8         6.7         5.1
Lamborghini Murcielago    12.7          8.22       4.13
Lamborghini Gallardo SL   12.9          7.81       4.41
Porsche GT3                    13.6          8.8         4.0
Ford GT40                       13.6          8.5         4.8
Lotus 2-Eleven                14.9          9.88       4.3
Caterham R400               15.25        10.3       4.65
BMW M5 Touring             15.4          10.47     4.4
Audi R8                          15.5          10.78     4.45
Mercedes CL63 AMG        16.05        11.19     4.52
Porsche Cayenne Turbo    16.6          11.71    4.49
Subaru RB320                 17.15        12.52    4.34
Audi S8                           18.85       13.56     4.98
Honda Goldwing            19.7         12.8      7.0
Suzuki Katana 1100      19.8         13.3      6.5
Audi S3                           19.8         14.61     4.69
Honda Civic Type-R          21            15.98     4.46
Renault Megane R26        21.8         16.66      4.8
Vauxhall Corsa VXR         21.81        16.8       4.7
Mini Cooper-S                 21.95        16.76     4.72
BMW X5 4.8                    24.2         19.34     4.55