Powersports / Motorcycles / Sport / CBR600RR / Interviews
Miguel Duhamel rides the CBR600RR
With an incomparable 40 race wins and five championships in the 600 Supersport class, Team Honda's Miguel Duhamel knows middleweight sport bikes better than anyone else on the planet. So when Miguel sat down to give us his impressions after testing the new 600RR in race trim at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and again at Daytona, we listened.
Here's what you need to know about the new Honda CBR600RR: It makes the biggest jump forward ever seen in the 600 class, in terms of both engine and chassis performance. It's a complete departure from every 600 I have ever ridden; it's a completely different bike developed from a brand-new direction at Honda, drawn up on a clean slate. This is what we've been asking for as racers, and Honda has really stepped up and delivered, big time.
I'm excited about racing this bike because the CBR600RR is tangible proof of Honda's determination to win on the racetrack. They didn't spare any expense in developing this bike and they didn't hold back on any technological tricks. The engineers obviously developed the 600RR by using the same technology they put into the RC211V MotoGP race bike--the machine that absolutely dominated GP racing last season.
First impressions from the saddle show that the engine is incredibly powerful--you notice that right away. With the new Unit Pro-Link rear suspension, the bike feels lots more stable than any 600 I've ever ridden. It always feels calm underneath you, even over some really big bumps I rode over at about 100 mph, bumps I always avoid. But the 600RR never even twitched and the usual shock waves, so to speak, that the rear suspension typically transmits through the frame just weren't there.
What does this mean in terms of actual racetrack use? It means that I'll be free to maintain more speed and inertia through turns, even rough turns on the track. Also, I'll be able to use different lines, so I'll have more options on where and how I get through turns. I'll be able to run tighter or wider, depending on whatever situations crop up during the race. And because I can be more precise with the bike, the 600RR helps me to be more aggressive with my race tactics--have more choices and options than ever before, which will give me an edge over the other guys.
Back to the engine--it's just phenomenal. Even in stock trim, when I got on the bike for the first time, the engine really impressed me. The 600RR pulls right up to 15,000 rpm, but it's not just spinning up to redline, it's pulling strong all the way up, in a real linear way, without the power ever falling off. It's just fun to use this engine, plus the sound is great.
In the early-season work-ups with this bike, we were just barely beginning to get things dialed in, yet we could turn amazingly competitive lap times. I'm excited to think about all the potential that we'll be tapping into with this bike; the road ahead is wide-open for lots more progress.
And even without getting anywhere close to the perfect setup during our initial testing, the 600RR is really easy on your body. For example, during the Dunlop tire tests at Daytona in December, our job was to test tires, not work on bike setup. So I ran 82 laps there on a 600RR that didn't have nearly the perfect setup for me, but at the end of those laps I still felt really fresh and strong. That's about 300 miles, mostly at speeds of 150 mph or faster! It's a beautiful thing--the bike does the work for you, and that allows you to stay mentally fresh and aggressive with your racing.
Adding to that is the aerodynamic design of the bike. When we were testing at Las Vegas Speedway, it was pretty windy, but with the new fairing and suspension, I felt like I was just slicing through the wind. In the old days, with less horsepower, wind was not as much of an issue. But now that we're going faster, aerodynamics really become a factor in racing. At Las Vegas and Daytona, the new aero package really gave me more confidence and reduced my mental workload.
All the advantages the CBR600RR offers as a race bike will also carry over to street use. In fact, on the street there are more different situations and obstacles than you'll ever see on the track, and the 600RR will give riders a real advantage in dealing with these things. Over bumps, for example, the suspension soaks up bumps that normally give riders a case of big eyes, and that will help you stay focused on riding.
In a way, the CBR600RR takes street bikes into a big leap forward, just like long-travel motocross bikes did for off-road riders years ago. It's not that the 600RR offers more inches of suspension travel, but the quality of suspension travel is now so much better I think it will make the average guy an even better street rider than he was before. I believe the CBR600RR is a real breakthrough, both on the track and on the street.