In the pit lane
It's either a positive or negative depending on your point of view, but the new GSX-R1000 looks, well it looks just like the GSX-R600 and GSX-R750. With a 750 and 600 in the same line-up you have to keep looking at the brake calipers to make sure you get on the right bike. A tip here, the 1000 is the only GSX-R to get lovely gold Brembos with red lettering - it is unlikely you will spot the discs are 0.5mm thinner than last year... Other than the calipers and a slight facelift, which includes dumping one exhaust can to save weight, the main changes are inside the GSX-R's motor. Something that isn't instantly apparent.
Like the GSX-R750 PH2 rode a few months ago, the 2012 GSX-R1000 feels slightly more sprightly than the 2011 version when it comes to the motor, but it isn't as apparent as on the smaller capacity bike. Unlike a Fireblade the Suzuki has a nice raw edge about it, something that the super smooth Honda lacks. When you ride a 1000 there's nothing wrong with a bit of character and the odd vibration, which is why the GSX-R is so much more engaging. There is a bit of a powerband higher up the rev range but unlike the ZX-10R, which feels a bit gutless low down, the Suzuki pulls strongly in the small figures before going ballistic as the revs rise. But is it that different? Yes it feels more eager to rev, but it's not gigantically removed from the 2011 version, which in many ways is no bad thing - Honda hasn't really changed the 'blade's motor since 2008 and there wasn't much wrong with the 2011 GSX-R1000's engine. Or chassis for that matter.
You can, of course, have too much of a good thing when it comes to brakes. The Brembos on the Ducati 1198 are simply too ferocious and make braking quite scary but on the GSX-R1000 Brembo has got it spot on. The new calipers are superb, hugely powerful yet delivering loads of feeling, although they highlighted a slightly soft front end. Braking hard into a hairpin the back end of the GSX-R slewed around quite a lot, probably due to the BPF forks being a touch too soft, or, ahem, the rider a touch too heavy...
Without the electronic gizmos the GSX-R ultimately will not win the track group tests this year. It certainly isn't as fast as the stunning BMW S1000RR or as balanced as the Fireblade. However, it brings something new to the party - character. Clever electronics can get in the way of what riding a bike is all about - pure two-wheeled enjoyment. In reality all 1000s are way too fast for road riding, so you are splitting hairs when it comes to performance. What matters is how it feels and the emotions it stirs in you. And there's just something likeable about the GSX-R's rawness, more so than the ZX-10R and in some ways more than the Fireblade. A rider's bike? Reckon so.
Engine: 999cc, liquid-cooled, DOHC, fuel injection
Power: 180hp @ 12,000rpm
Torque: 86 lb ft @ 10,000rpm
Top speed: 173mph
Weight: 203kg (dry)
MPG: 43 (est)