Who Had the Better AMA Superbike Racing Debut: The KTM 1190 RC8 R or the Erik Buell Racing 1190RS?

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Mid-Ohio is a great destination if you’re looking to do a track day (we’d recommend riding with these guys), and Mid-Ohio is an even better place to leave if you don’t have a motorcycle with you. However, once a year, the Buckeye State redeems itself by playing host to an AMA Pro Racing weekend. The AMA Superbike races at Mid-Ohio were extra special this year, as KTM debuted Chris Fillmore on its factory-backed KTM 1190 RC8 R Superbike, bringing the Austrian company into a more active relationship with the American Motorcyclist Association.

Also making its first racing debut was the Erik Buell Racing 1190RS Superbike, the race version of Erik Buell’s latest street machine (or is it the 1190RS the street bike version of Buell’s latest race bike?). However which way you read that development process, this weekend was the first time Geoff May got to flog the EBR 1190RS in anger on a track with other racers present.

The much anticipated bigger horsepower Superbike was supposed to put Erik Buell Racing on an even playing field with the other manufacturers, as the team had previously been cobbled with its 1125cc homologated Buell 1125R, and accordingly the EBR team tent saw it’s fair share of visitors..

With KTM making its first AMA race outing on its otherwise tried and tested RC8 R platform, and Buell banking on several AMA season’s worth of racing experience to launch its previously un-raced 1190RS Superbike, and interesting contrast comes out from AMA Pro Racing’s latest stop at Lexington, Ohio.

Pos. Rider Team Diff. to Leader Gap Best Lap
Free Practice – 7/8/2011@ 1:00 PM:
1 Josh Hayes Monster Energy Graves Yamaha R1 1:26.117
10 Chris Fillmore KTM/HMC Racing KTM 1190 RC8 R 2.631 1:28.748
11 Geoff May Amsoil EBR Racing 1190RS 2.892 0.261 1:29.009
Qualifying Practice – 7/8/2011 @ 4:00 PM:
1 Josh Hayes Monster Energy Graves Yamaha R1 1:25.639
10 Chris Fillmore KTM/HMC Racing KTM 1190 RC8 R 1.745 1:27.384
13 Geoff May Amsoil EBR Racing 1190RS 2.858 1.113 1:28.497
Final Qualifying Practice – 7/9/2011 @ 9:30 AM:
1 Blake Young Rockstar Makita Suzuki GSX-R1000 1:25.025
9 Chris Fillmore KTM/HMC Racing KTM 1190 RC8 R 1.886 1:26.911
12 Geoff May Amsoil EBR Racing 1190RS 2.518 0.632 1:27.543
AMA Superbike Race 1 – 7/9/2011 @ 3:15 PM:
1 Blake Young Rockstar Makita Suzuki GSX-R1000 1:25.786
7 Chris Fillmore KTM/HMC Racing KTM 1190 RC8 R 13.620 1:26.639
11 Geoff May Amsoil EBR Racing 1190RS 31.192 17.572 1:27.225
Warm-up – 7/10/2011 @ 10:00 AM:
1 Blake Young Rockstar Makita Suzuki GSX-R1000 1:25.682
9 Geoff May Amsoil EBR Racing 1190RS 2.172 1:27.854
12 Chris Fillmore KTM/HMC Racing KTM 1190 RC8 R 2.752 0.580 1:28.434
AMA Superbike Race 2 – 7/10/2011 @ 3:30 PM:
1 Tommy Hayden Rockstar Makita Suzuki GSX-R1000 1:25.820
9 Chris Fillmore KTM/HMC Racing KTM 1190 RC8 R 26.602 1:26.966
10 Geoff May Amsoil EBR Racing 1190RS 43.841 17.238 1:27.252

As you can see from the table above, KTM arguably had the upper-hand for its debut at Mid-Ohio, faster than Buell in every session except Sunday’s Race 2 warm-up. Likely due to the Austrian factory’s experience racing the KTM 1190 RC8 R in the German Superbike series and having the basic model out since 2008, KTM didn’t have nearly the learning curve and teething problems that Erik Buell Racing encountered during the Mid-Ohio Race.

“Nobody expected us to be inside the top ten. We really haven’t had much time on the bike and are way behind in terms of set-up compared to the teams that have been racing all season,” said rider Chris Fillmore after Saturday’s race. “When I qualified 10th fastest, we were all excited and couldn’t wait for the race to begin.”

“This was the perfect end to a great weekend. We are very excited to leave our first AMA Pro Superbike race with two top ten results,” remarked Fillmore in a separate statement on Sunday. “We definitely have some work to do before the next round but we are much further ahead than we expected.”

In the Erik Buell Racing camp, the team had been complaining throughout the season on the noticeable power deficit between the Buell 1125R and the rest of the AMA Superbike grid. With the EBR 1190RS being the great white hope of American superbike racing, the added weight that comes with the extra 74cc’s of displacement proved to be a larger obstacle than the team could overcome on race day.

“11th and 10th first time out. Bike was very solid and reliable, but we waaay underestimated the difficulty of set up with the extra 25 lbs of weight strapped on,” wrote the team on the Erik Buell Racing Facebook wall. “Today with all that weight and some chassis changes we made trying to compensate for it (which included running a soft rear tire), we destroyed the tire mid[sic]race, and Geoff had to slow way down. We’ll try to get some more testing before Laguna.”

Time will tell how both bikes and teams move on from Mid-Ohio, as they will race again at Laguna Seca in two weeks’ time. Either way, the big winner are the fans, who have two more manufacturers to root for in a series that’s otherwise been dominated by Japanese manufacturers.

Source: AMA Pro Racing; Photos: Brian J. Nelson / KTM

Jensen Beeler

Despite his best efforts, Jensen is called one of the most influential bloggers in the motorcycle industry, and sometimes consults for motorcycle companies, whether they've solicited his expertise or not.