All the things which made the Honda Fireblade the fastest around the track and our favourite 1000cc superbike last year still ring true. The Honda is still impossibly easy to jump on and ride fast, being smooth, beautifully balanced and predictable, with superb handling.
It was another bike that needed lots of tweaking to get it to behave around the circuit, mainly through controlling the damping at each end to stabilise it under acceleration and braking. The only real limit to its cornering ability is the pegs, which go down easily with these sticky Michelin Power One tyres fitted.
The Honda Fireblade is a very comforting bike to be on, once set up, and will make the perfect trackday bike. It never does anything nasty and is constantly re-assuring you, giving you lots of feedback and confidence.
While the Ducati is a serious track tool and feels the most like a proper race machine out of all the bikes here, and the Kawasaki ZX-10 is a precision tool for carving out fast lap times, the Fireblade is just fun. You feel like riding round and round until the fuel runs out. And remember, it cleaned up in last year's National Superstock Championship, too.
Fourth position in this test doesn't really do the Blade justice, but the stop watch is a cruel mistress. Compared to the Yamaha R1, it's too slow out of corners to keep up and the engine feels too buzzy and frantic.
It's hard to believe the Honda is way down in races, but by no means does that mean it's become rubbish overnight, because it hasn't. It's still a gem of a motorcycle.