All the goodies were there; 1190 RC8, 990 Super Duke, 990 Super Duke R, 690 Duke and the 690 Supermoto.
My day consisted of three on-track sessions; two on the RC8 and one on the 990 Super Duke. First order of duty would be a ride on the new RC8 as this was a highly anticipated ride for me. Since viewing the first pictures of this bike on the internet I have been foaming at the mouth to get a ride on one. The distinct styling of the RC8 really sets it apart from other sportbikes on the market and it\'s a look that I immediately took a liking to. If the styling of the bike doesn\'t float your boat, here are a few things that might; an 1148 cc V-twin cranking out 155 bhp at 10,000 RPM and 120 Nm of torque @ 8,000 rpm.
Suspension is provided by WP Suspension front and rear and they also supply an adjustable steering damper as standard equipment. Front suspension has adjustable preload, compression and rebound damping while the rear has preload, compression (high and low speed) and rebound damping. Wheels are five-spoke alloy Marchesini 3.50 x 17" and 6.00 x 17".
The RC8 also comes equipped with premium Brembo components. On the front are 320 mm floating discs with radially bolted, four-piston monoblock calipers while the rear has a 220 mm disc and dual-piston fixed caliper. Stopping power was never a question but I prefer something with a little less initial bite. The Brembos come on so hard initially it took me some time to get a feel for how much pressure to put on the brake lever. Once deep into the braking they had a more progressive feel with ample bite.
KTM makes the RC8 frame out of chrome molybdenum steel and it weighs less than 16.5 pounds. The swingarm is made of anodized cast and sheet metal and the linkage system in the rear allows for 7mm of ride height adjustment. The RC8 also has adjustable footpegs and as a whole the level of adjustability on the RC8 is definitely greater than any current sportbike I have ridden.
The speedo on the RC8 is down right swanky and a wide variety of information can be accessed in either road or racing mode via a menu button on the handlebars. KTM has managed to throw in a clock, trip, digital tach and speedo as well as an on board lap timer plus a few other things too.
The KTM RC8 comes with some very unique and brand-name components and I was curious to see if the bike worked as a package or if it was nothing more than a mediocre motorcycle with some high-priced goodies.
I have heard some good things about the suspension out of the Netherlands but this was my first time riding on WP suspension and I must say I came away impressed. In fact it was probably the highlight of the RC8.
The WP rear mono shock did a great job of putting the power down. There was no squat from the rear when accelerating out of Auto Club Speedway\'s many flat, hard accelerating corners. There was some rear-wheel spin going on but it was mostly due to the Pirelli Dragon Supercorsa street tires. Even when the rear was spinning it was very controlled thanks to the good feedback and feel; no quick step-outs or surprises here.
Turn-in on the KTM was also top notch as the bike tipped in quickly and without too much effort. Once it was on it\'s side it was very confidence inspiring and felt extremely balanced and planted. There are a few serious cracks in the pavement leading onto the banking at Fontana which can upset the bike while at full lean angle. The RC8 went over the rough patches like they didn\'t exist. I couldn\'t help but thinking I wish I could get my racebike to feel that good over the rugged pavement I could shave some serious time.
Just as the rear had good feel, the front never had me guessing. Running on street tires I was pushing the front in some of Fontana\'s flat corners but the excellent feel from the WP front-end meant I was able to ride it to the limit through typically heavy track day traffic without the fear of causing a bowling ball effect while making inside passes on slower riders. The front always felt very planted and it allowed me to charge hard on the brakes with complete confidence.
The RC8 weighs in at a competitive 440lbs fully wet, feels very slim and light between the legs, and was precise and flickable while making quick transitions coming off the banking through the switchbacks. It was very composed through the bumpy fast chicane leading to the back straight; a critical part of the track for a fast lap time. It took me a few laps to trust that I could keep the RC8 pegged through this chicane since I have become accustomed to my personal racebike trying to throw me off in this very spot on many occasion.
While making passes going into the corners is good fun, nothing beats the feeling of making a horsepower pass down the straightaway. While you won\'t be pulling ZX-10\'s down the straight, the RC8 has a motor with a tractor like pull all the way to the top. I was surprised to feel the strong surge of power high up in the revs on the RC8. As the old folks would say, it\'s a real kick in the pants. While the impressive power at high revs may have been a pleasant surprise the place the KTM motor really shines is in the long sweeping corner exits where you can just roll on the power. Unfortunately, for me, Fontana doesn\'t have an abundance of these corners. I can imagine, however, the fun to be had laying nasty black marks on corner exits at tracks like Laguna or Miller which have a better flow. The motor was a little reminiscent of when I first rode the Ducati 1098 in the way you could rev it out a little more like an inline four.
The fuel injection and throttle response were a big letdown on the RC8. Mid-corner at around 4,500 RPM the bike would stumble badly and the on/off throttle response was terrible. The jerkiness was bad enough to upset the bike in a few of Fontana\'s corners to the point where it could put you on the ground if you weren\'t smooth. Gear selection was very important in the slower corners to try to keep the RC8 running smoothly. My only other real complaint of the RC8 would be a healthy dose of vibration at the bars.
Shift action on the transmission was positive and smooth with good engagement and no sign of clunkiness.
In my short time with the new RC8 I came to appreciate what an impressive job KTM has done in creating and bringing their first dedicated sportbike to market. Having ridden KTM\'s main competition in the standard Ducati 1098 and Buell 1125R, I would have to say the RC8 falls somewhere right in between. While I felt the motor and handling of the RC8 surpassed the Buell 1125R it is still a bit shy of being a Ducati beater.
Seeing as how this was KTM\'s first shot at a hard-core sportbike the RC8 is pretty impressive. Beautiful styling, strong motor, stable chassis and top-notch components make this a sportbike with a big future.