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Guy Martin and David Coulthard Demonstrate Why Race Cars Can Be Faster Than Race Bikes


At the highest level of motorsport, cars are faster than motorcycles around a racetrack. This has been true for some time … even before development of sophisticated downforce aerodynamics on race cars. A British television series demonstrated this fact a few years ago by inviting F1 racer David Coulthard to lap Silverstone in a Red Bull F1 car against Isle of Man veteran (he has 15 podiums there) Guy Martin on a BMW superbike.

Yes, Guy Martin is not a MotoGP rider, and the bike he is on is not a MotoGP factory bike, which would, perhaps, provide a more interesting comparison. Nevertheless, the fact that Coulthard can lap Martin before Martin finishes his third lap tells the story. Yes, a MotoGP bike would be quicker on a long straight than an F1 car, but corner speed, acceleration off the corners and braking all play to the advantages of the car. Have a look.

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  1. stinkywheels says:

    I hang with a lot of gearheads, I just have to say, to them, “it takes a $50k car to outrun a $5k bike”. I personally only know of 1 car with a license plate that can beat a litrebike in the quarter mile, a road course, no way. I know we ride bikes because they’re fun and exhilarating, bang for the buck always goes to the bike.

    • Francois says:

      Not entirely true.

      I’ve seen with my own eyes that a Nissan GTR made a Kawasaki ZX10 and a Honda CBR1000 look like bicycles on a public road at a traffic light without even trying hard.

      A standard Volvo S60 does quite a good job humiliating bikes as well.

      Yes, I am a bike fan, but there are some pretty fast cars out there.

      On a tight track, having equally skilled riders and drivers, most cars will beat bikes – better traction.

      • TwinTalon says:

        Then there was something else at play in those scenarios you’re describing. The math alone ruins the claim that a GTR is faster than a ZX10.
        A GTR has roughly 290bhp per ton, while an ’11 ZX10 has (reeeally conservative math here) 742bhp per ton. It’s not even on the same continent, let alone ballpark.
        So there was something else going on there. Either the bikes didn’t know they were racing, or they had no earthly idea how to get off the line relatively quickly, or they couldn’t keep the front wheel near the ground. Or maybe it just came down to the totally-takes-care-of-it-for-you launch control on the GTR, which gets little credit from me.
        As for the Volvo, the only bike it’s going to humiliate is… maybe a Ninja 500?
        I’m sorry, but those claims just don’t meet with the reality of the numbers.
        Agreed, a car is usually faster around a track, especially a tight one, but off the line, very few cars can match a moderately fast bike.

  2. Brian says:

    Regardless of F1 vs. MotoGP/Superbike/whatever, what’s always amazing to me is how much performance you can buy in the motorcycle world for so little money. I mean, heck, even if you start off with a brand-new BMW S1000RR and kit it out for the track with some really nice components, you’re under 25 grand, and I’ll bet an equally skilled rider wouldn’t be too far behind Guy’s bike.

    Put 25 grand into a new car and you get a GTI or WRX or something along those lines…great cars, but nothing that’s going to give Coulthard any heartburn on the straights.

    Plus, think about how much well-preserved 10-year-old Supersport 600 or 1000 you can buy for $5-7k. Sometimes it’s hard to believe these machines are street-legal. (Since they may not be forever, I’m enjoying while I can!)

  3. Artem says:

    He He. What are you thinking about? Porsche 917 of Steve McQueeen was rather faster.
    Newertheless we are motorcycling. I’am at minimum/

  4. Chris says:

    This is the end of a 47 minute video where they do other challenges before they race.

  5. mickey says:…7026.17738.0.18108.….0….1.64.navquery..1.8.3102…0.rc7h2N8RZL4&ved=0ahUKEwjd-p-yx-zPAhXJcz4KHfBlAxIQ2wEIHw&ei=jWIKWJ2AEMnn-QHwy42QAQ

    Here ya go, the GP bike wins lol

  6. Ellis Tomago says:

    I don’t ride a bike because it’s faster. I ride it because it’s more fun.

  7. blitz11 says:

    It isn’t contact patch so much as it is downforce. F1 cars at speed are pulled to the pavement by pressure differential. The maximum adhesive force that a motorcycle can put on a flat road is the weight of the rider + the weight of the bike. When you corner, the maximum adhesive force on the road is proportional to the cosine of the lean angle.

    F1: adhesive force can be twice the weight of the car + driver. It’s all aerodynamics/pressure differential. Now, add in the fact that you don’t lean, and that cosine effect goes away.

    I’ve been to the isle of man, and the F1 will still beat the bike due to its unfair pressure differential advantage. Not by as much, but still beat it. It’s the physics.

    I’ve also ridden the Paul Bunyon forest in Akeley, MN. KTM wins every time.

    • Provologna says:

      “…I’ve also ridden the Paul Bunyon forest in Akeley, MN. KTM wins every time.”

      Well put. Marin County, CA, Lucas Valley Road to Nicasio Reservoir or vice verse: Ferrari or Porsche Turbo vs. a measly but well tuned Yamaha Vision: buh-bye, cage.

  8. D Rob says:

    I did a little research to see what a more typical sports car might turn in at the track for a more “realistic” comparison.

    According to, a 911 Turbo turned a 2:11 on the slightly shorter track (3.2 miles).

    The only normal car listed on the Silverstone GP track (3.7 miles) is a Honda Civic Type R at 2:31.

    Considering Guy turned a 2:03 (I believe that is what I heard in the video), that appears better than the 2015 Ducati GP at 2:18.

    As best as I can surmise, a $20,000 sport bike would fare well against a $150,000 sports car.

  9. Vrooom says:

    As others have said, race both vehicles on a tt course and see the results. You’d see a huge difference, not in the cars favor. What on earth made them compare it to a “BMW race bike” vs. say a Honda or Yamaha GP bike? They were racing an F1 car for god’s sake, I realize the car would still win (on a track principally designed for F1), but the bike wouldn’t have been lapped. I’m thinking my CT90 vs. a Nascar vehicle on an oval. That sounds fair.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      With up to 6 g’s of deceleration and lateral acceleration, I can’t really imagine any track scenario involving pavement where an F1 car wouldn’t crush a GP bike.

      • Scotty says:

        Around the Mountain course???? Not so sure. I’ve ridden the TT course 4 times and compared to a F1 track its very narrow and bumpy, and not only that no F1 driver knows the course like the best TT riders do, Michael Dunlop, John Mac, Hutchy and Guy for example.

        However…the fastest around the Mountain Course may be a LOCAL driver Mark Higginson in a 600hp Subaru WRX….like many locals he may have done thousands of laps….

  10. MGNorge says:

    Even though I don’t race I like seeing the driving/riding dynamics of what cars and bikes can do. While a MotoGP bike might have been a little more competitive on the bike side of things those F1 cars just simply rip. Remember too that their race lines can differ making it harder to pass in corners. Always found this humorous:

  11. jimmihaffa says:

    I think that in theory it is possible to build a two wheeled vehicle “motorcycle” that could navigate a racetrack faster, but it would look essentially like half of an F1 car with the rider lying prone and an extremely low center of gravity (think two wheeled skid on very fat wheels). Handling dynamics would have to shift from one dictated by intertial and gyroscopic forces generated during the pivoting action around the central longitudinal axis during negotiation of a turn, to that akin to the race car where tire grip is essentially the resistance force against angular momentum through the turn. On a standard motorcycle, the rider must tilt the bike along the wheel axis to generate the turning force and adopt a lower center of gravity to allow a higher rate of turn, effects that are hampered by the limited contact patch for counteracting angular momentum.

    • Random says:

      Something like a Batman bike with even larger tires? I actually like the idea despite not leaning on turns.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “I think that in theory it is possible to build a two wheeled vehicle “motorcycle” that could navigate a racetrack faster, but it would look essentially like half of an F1 car with the rider lying prone and an extremely low center of gravity (think two wheeled skid on very fat wheels).”

      ironically Hollywood’s gone and built this vehicle. they called it…

      (wait for it)

      the BATPOD…

  12. David Coulthard v Guy Martin around the Isle Of Man TT course…… ” What do you mean there’s brick walls and lamp posts one foot from the track ? ” ….. ” and what do you mean there’s no half a mile wide run off areas ? “

  13. Mick says:

    Great. Bring that crate out to Akeley, MN and race me on my 2017 300 XC down thirty miles or so of single track. I’ll be 55 in a couple of weeks and have never been a professional racer. But I’ll scotch that F1 car with zero problems.

    • Grover says:

      That F1 car would be like a fish out of water. Be fun to see, though.

      • Norm G. says:

        re: “Be fun to see, though.”

        it would be dangerous. you’d have to wear a chainmaille tunic with coif just to avoid being mortally wounded by the carbon fiber shards ejecting themselves every direction.

  14. hh says: against train again!!!…why not F1 against slower vehicles, how about an F1 car against guy martin on a bicycle in downtown rush hour traffic oops F1 looses or F1 vs guy martin in a staring contest (F1 wins after several hours after Guy assaults car for not responding to Guy’s mindless chatter)…..

  15. Trpldog says:

    Marc Marquez on his GP honda would been a little closer, but it’s hard to beat physics.
    Now, if it had been my Buell, I would have won by hitting the formula car with bottom end pieces on the straight. ha ha ha ha

  16. Aussie M says:

    A Formula 1 car is quicker than a motorcycle around a racetrack that was designed for Formula 1 cars. No surprises there. MotoGP is always disappointing to me, especially given its status as the premier class of world motorcycle racing, because they race on tracks that were designed for cars. It would be more exciting if the tracks included some really tight sections with sharp narrow corners and short straights. Anyway, racetrack performance means little to me because I don’t ride on racetracks. If an F1 car could beat a motorcycle around a real road circuit, particularly the Isle of Man, I would be impressed. But the comparison mentioned here is meaningless.

  17. spokes says:

    it’s all about the contact patch, traction in the corners is everything.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “it’s all about the contact patch, traction in the corners is everything”

      Senor Spokes is no joke.

  18. Larry K says:

    Could be the bikes slower for the added weight of BIGGER BALLS!!!

  19. azi says:

    This car vs bike thing has been done many times in the past. Bikes can’t brake as hard, because physics. *Drops microphone*

  20. falcodoug says:

    What did he say?

  21. xLaYN says:

    Heck, just 10Mph less on the straight….

    “I lost quite a bit of time to Guy off the start…
    Which I’ll be honest it piss me off a little bit”


  22. jimmihaffa says:

    See now Rossi would have kicked the race car’s control arm sending Coulthard tangentially through the apex of the turn and wheelied across the finish line to add insult to injury.

  23. Butch says:

    Entertaining, but not much of a contest really.
    Guy should put a few quid to the side and get that tooth fixed.