Is it True that Cars Can Go Quicker Than Motorcycles on Turns?

All else being relatively equal, it is true that a car can go quicker than a motorcycle in turns. Find out why cars actually can go quicker than motorcycles in turns!

How Can Cars Corner Quicker Than Motorcycles?

On average, motorcycles have better acceleration and can easily pass highway traffic made up of slower-moving cars that simply cannot keep up with a motorcycle. So why would it be the case that cars can be quicker on turns?

It is important to first acknowledge this is only true when all else is relatively equal! This means a Toyota Prius, an economy-based, front-wheel drive, hybrid car, will not be faster in turns that say, a sportbike like a Yamaha YZF R6. One is made for efficiency while the other is designed with speed and handling in mind. The motorcycle should be able to out-perform the car in turns and other performance metrics.

Physics of Turning

The reasons for the ability of cars to corner faster lies in concepts such as lateral grip, center of gravity, and aerodynamic downforce.

Lateral Grip

Lateral grip is applied when a vehicle is turning/cornering or steering. This is the side-to-side grip of the tires. Cars have greater lateral grip than motorcycles, and can sustain this grip at higher cornering speeds than motorcycles.

Note that car tires are larger than those found on motorcycles, giving them a bigger contact patch with the surface and therefore more grip. So if you pit a sportbike and a sports car on a racetrack with drivers/riders of equal ability and plenty of turns, the car is likely to be faster.

Center of Gravity

The center of gravity refers to the location on a vehicle that is the overall mean of the vehicle’s weight. While this is a somewhat complex concept, the important thing to know is that cars have a lower center of gravity than motorcycles, and this lower center of gravity enables better handling, especially in turns.

A sports car will be lower to the ground than a motorcycle, which is what allows for the lower center of gravity. This lower center of gravity also makes a car less likely to roll over than a motorcycle, meaning a driver is likely able to sustain higher speeds through turns without concern of losing control.

Aerodynamic Downforce

Downforce is aided by the aerodynamics of a vehicle. What happens is the force creates a downwards lift force, which puts more force vertically on the vehicle’s tires. This adds even more grip to the tires, and the driver can go even faster with the added grip ensuring they stay planted on the road in the direction they want to go.

In professional motorcycle racing, like MotoGP, some bikes are outfitted with winglet-type devices that serve to generate downforce. This is not something likely to be encountered on street motorcycles, however.

In Sum

Nonetheless, you always have to compare “the same with the same”. There are many points that could falsify the result. Not only is the engine important, as mentioned above, also parts like the suspension are very important. Technology evolves and simply offers a lot more scope for cars.

Overall, placing a sports car and sportbike on the same, turn heavy track is likely to result in the car racking up a better lap time due to their having physics on their side, with better aerodynamics, lower center of gravity, and more grip.

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