Settling an old feud between two and four wheels … almost
Which is faster around a racetrack: a car or a motorcycle? It is a question often asked by car and motorcycle enthusiasts. If you ask a motorcycle rider, they would probably say that the motorcycle is faster because of its superior power-to-weight ratio. If you ask a car enthusiast, the answer would likely be the car because it can carry more speed through corners where bikes are at a great disadvantage. To settle this debate once and for all, we decided to do a car vs. bike time trial at the Batangas Racing Circuit, or BRC.
Now, we are not the first to do this kind of test. As a matter of fact, YouTube is chock-full of these car vs. bike videos from all over the world and more often than not, it’s the bike that wins (a favorite of mine is the race between a KTM RC8 and X-Bow, and also the Honda Civic Type R vs. CBR1000RR Fireblade by Fifth Gear, go search for them). For this test, however, we decided to level the playing field by choosing a car and motorcycle with almost the same power-to-weight ratio. After studying the specs of a handful of prospective contenders, we finally decided to go with the Mazda MX5 and the new Suzuki GSX-R150.
The MX5 has a curb weight of 2332 lbs. and produces 155 hp from its 2.0L DOHC 16-valve 4-cylinder inline 4 engine for a power-to-weight ratio of .0665 hp per pound (maximum horsepower divided by curb weight). The GSX-R150, on the other hand, weighs in at only 288 lbs. and produces a maximum 19 hp from its 147.3cc liquid-cooled fuel injected DOHC 4-valve 1 cylinder motor for a power-to-weight ratio of .066 hp per pound. As you can well see, the two are closely matched and, theoretically, should return competitive lap times. Or so we thought.
Driving the MX5 was Georges Ramirez, our in-house fast guy that drives everything from tiny econo boxes to exotic supercars to great effect. He belongs to a well-known and much loved family of racecar drivers, after all. Riding the Suzuki GSX-R150 is no other than me. We originally planned to hire the expertise of the Team Suzuki Pilipinas racers for this comparo but unfortunately, they were busy preparing for a big race. So that left me as the only one to carry the Suzuki flag (gulp). Now, I’m not a competitive rider. The closest I have ever been to an actual race was during a media fun race where I won third place. But I’ve been riding motorcycles for close to 30 years, and I’ve graduated from the California Superbike Class Level 4 class. Twice. So, it’s probably safe to say that I know my way around a racetrack.
It was overcast and humid when we arrived in BRC, and by the time we entered the racetrack, there were already tiny droplets of rain visible on my helmet visor. We were allowed two familiarization laps around the track before the actual time trial. It was not my first time to ride in BRC, but the last time I rode there was six years ago during a Kawasaki-sponsored event. Unlike the counterclockwise Clark International Speedway where we frequently go, BRC is a clockwise racetrack with plenty of right-hand corners. Picking the right cornering line after a long absence proved to be quite a challenge, especially for a left-handed person like me who prefers left-hand sweepers.
First to have a go was Ramirez on the bone-stock MX5, and boy, was he flying during the familiarization laps. On his third and final lap, Ramirez clocked an impressive one minute and 54.70 seconds lap time. When my turn came for the familiarization laps, I was hopelessly sightseeing around BRC. Not only was I acclimatizing myself to the handling characteristics of the GSX-R150 (it was my first time to ride it), but I was also trying to pick the best braking points for each corner. So when the time came for my timed lap, I can honestly say that I was ill-prepared. It also didn’t help that it was raining in some parts of the racetrack, making it really difficult for me to carry more speed into corners. There were instances when I could feel the rear wheel losing traction on wet patches of asphalt. When the clock stopped, I only managed an embarrassing and utterly miserable 2 minutes and 41.32 seconds lap time. Sorry, Suzuki. I really tried my best.
Unlike most YouTube videos, this time the car actually won, which led some of us to believe that it was a classic mismatch. I was hoping for a David vs. Goliath sort of ending, which would have been nothing short of epic, but that clearly didn’t happen. You see, while they may appear equal based purely on their power-to-weight ratios, there are plenty of other variables that ultimately influenced the final outcome of this comparo.
When you delve deeper into other performance aspects of the MX5, you’ll discover that it can accelerate to 100km/h faster than the GSX-R150 (6.5 seconds vs. 8.74 seconds) and has a significantly higher top speed as well (209.21 Km/h vs. 154 Km/h). And that it can carry more speed into corners even in slightly damp track conditions, and the fact that it was driven by no less than Georges Ramirez himself was what tipped the scale in favor of the MX5. If there’s any consolation to me, I found out that a Team Suzuki Pilipinas racer riding a race-prepared GSX-R150 (lightened with race exhaust and stickier compound tires) could lap around BRC in 2 minutes flat. That’s a whopping 41.32 seconds faster than my lap time, but still a few seconds off the MX5. In the end, there’s really no substitute for cubic centimeters. We should’ve chosen a bigger bike and practiced around BRC prior to the comparo.
Impression: four to the floor
by Georges Ramirez
The idea of a bike vs car challenge is interesting and downright exciting too! My thoughts were that the car would be quicker than the bike given that we used the same power to weight ratio. It’s a matter of physics, I suppose. Having two extra tires to lean on as you power around a corner is a big advantage, and they are wider tires to boot!
Growing up around racetracks in a time when cars and bikes would use the same track and race on the same weekend too, I would always see the times posted, and it would always be the cars with the quicker times. Though having said that, the difference in the times were much smaller in the fast tracks where the bikes could accelerate quickly and carry the speed through the straights and fast bends. If a track is fast enough, I suppose it would get to the point where the bikes would have the advantage, but that is certainly not the case in the Batangas Racing Circuit (BRC).
There are several factors that can influence such a challenge, but BRC works to the favor of the cars, and we could see that in the results of the challenge. What was even more interesting was that after doing the challenge, we came up with several ideas. One, was as the car had double the amount of tires, we would double the number of CCs of the bike, and apparently, Suzuki has 650cc available! So, if all goes well, we hope to be printing part two of the “Car vs. Bike” challenge.