Triumph Daytona 600 versus CBR600 & ZX-6R

England experts every British sportsbike to do its duty. But can the Daytona beat the awesome CBR600RR and Kawasaki ZX-6R?

I've had a bit of an uneasy feeling ever since I stepped off the plane from the launch of the Triumph Daytona. Now I know I'm getting on a bit, and unlike a fine Scottish Malt my old noodle up top doesn't get much better with age, but was the Daytona really that good? I mean, look at it this way. Honda is a massive company with huge resources and a virtual ocean of racing experience to dive into. If it wants something then it invariably gets it. Take MotoGP. Honda wanted to win it, so it built the RCV and walked the title. Honda wanted the WSB title, so it built the SP-2 and developed it into a world beater. And now big H wants the best supersports 600 bike, so it built the CBR600RR. Job done, almost.

In our group test earlier this year the CBR did just enough to beat off the challenge from the excellent  Kawasaki, but then the Triumph Daytona appeared. Could a small British firm from Hinckley really challenge the might of Honda? It's a bit like David and Goliath all over again, except without the slingshots, or the loin cloths. Which is a shame. I love 'em.

So in the interests of research, and topping up my tan a bit, we packed the three best 600s into the back of a van and headed down to sunny Spain to circuit Almeria to really put them through their paces. And to ensure a totally level playing field for a pukka scientific test, each bike was equipped with the same Pirelli Diablo Corsa tyres.

Almeria is one of those circuits that is perfectly suited to a 600. It's very tight and twisty and has a back section that can be done almost entirely in third gear. When it comes to assessing handling I can't really think of a better track, which is why so many GP, WSB and BSB teams come here for testing.

First out of the van was the Honda, well you may as well start with the benchmark. After a few laps I remembered what it was about the CBR I liked so much, just about everything. It's just so bloody good. The whole bike feels tiny and you kind of sit on top of it, which is perfect when it comes to track riding. Show it a corner and the baby RCV just dives towards the apex. No fuss, no messing. If you want to tighten a line, adjust position or just see how far you can lean it over then go ahead, it takes it all in its stride. It really is that easy to ride and tremendously confidence inspiring.

That old feeling of unease was creeping back, was the Triumph really that good? Best try the Kawasaki. When we did the group test earlier this year the Kawasaki was my least favourite of the 600s. I never felt 100 per-cent confident in the front end and the suspension definitely wasn't right. But the bike I rode at Almeria was a completely different beast. Now I'm not sure if this was because the temperature was higher in Spain than Britain in January but the ZX-6R felt a million times better, maybe the Pirelli tyres just suit it well.

Hopping on the Kawasaki from the Honda the first thing that strikes you is the clocks as they leap up and try and hit you in the face. The extra mid-range boost the 36cc advantage it has over the Honda really is awesome. In the chicane where you are changing between first and second gear the ZX leaps up and wheelies under power and with the aid of the forks bouncing up, it feels much more like a mini 750 than a 600. Fantastic. It also sounds ace on full-chat and reminds me of a screaming two-stroke more than a four, which is no bad thing.

Cornering hard the Kawasaki still doesn't quite have that planted feel of the Honda and mid-corner the front can feel a little vague but is still very impressive. I reckon a bit of the lack of feeling could be attributed to the riding position which is much more sit-in than sit-on the bike as with the Honda. For road riding it makes the bike feel bigger and comfier but when it comes to track work the Honda's feeling of sitting virtually straddling the top yoke gives ultimate feel.

Which is probably why the indicated speeds of the two bikes were so similar. Yes the Kawasaki has the extra grunt getting out of corners but you can use the extra feeling the Honda's chassis gives you to start laying down the power first and accelerating harder out of the corner.