The intermediate riding physics now feel like a genuine compromise between beginner and hardcore. You'll still be punished for braking too late or gunning the throttle too early, turning a perfectly planned apex into a jagged mess of fifty-pence-piece proportions.
But if you keep a level head and pay close attention to what the bike is doing, then the worst cornering scenarios are more than avoidable. This fine tuning also addresses the under steer problems which hampered the bikes at low speeds.
In SBK X the bikes didn't turn in with enough pace through the tighter bends, and while this made the Superbike class harder to control, it was an artificial way to augment the difficulty.
Based on our impressions, SBK 2011 is set to emulate leaning physics more accurately. This is especially noticeable during mid-corner corrections - if you take things too wide, you can now lower your speed and lean the bike with more immediacy.
Milestone is trying to make the low and medium simulations a less daunting proposition, and while this is good news for fair weather riders, uncompromising gear heads are still catered for by the full simulation. And just to prove it hasn't gone soft, Milestone took us back to Portimao for a dose of this unabashed realism.
We also had to tackle the perils of motorcycling kryptonite (i.e. rain) as we steadily edged the Aprilia round a wet track while using the throttle in more tentative bursts. One lap and two crashes later, it was clear that this pure simulation – devoid of handholding – is what every feature in SBK 2011 will be built around, and what every hardcore racing fan will aspire to tame.
If there's one prevailing criticism of SBK X it's that the arcade style Story Mode felt tacked on. But rather than scrap it, Milestone plans to introduce a revised Tour Mode which will be more akin to the license system from Gran Turismo. It also wants to overhaul the Career Mode into something less arduous.
Last year's trek from Superstock to Superbike felt dragged out because there was no way to start a race quickly. Instead you had to laboriously skip through each free practise, warm-up and qualifier before finally reaching the main event.
Milestone has promised to fix this with three customisable layouts – "Real", "Qualify and Race" and "Race only" – which can be selected before a race weekend. Further revisions will include a part testing system that's easier to understand, more realistic fall animations and the ability to download ghost data from the Time Attack leaderboards.
After the success of SBK X there was a risk that SBK 2011 could turn out be a lazy update, but based on this evidence, Milestone are crafting a sequel which aims to be a more realistic racing simulation and a more gratifying arcade racer. It's addressing many of the issues raised by its dedicated fan-base while also making the low-level simulation more accessible for the casual player.
The 2011 Superbike World Championship season kicks off soon with MotoGP soon to follow. While the likes of Lorenzo, Pedrosa, Biaggi and Haslam battle it out on the track, Milestone is gearing up for a fight of its own.
Monumental is currently keeping MotoGP 10/11 under wraps, but the current race leader has just thrown down the gauntlet with an impressive display of riding finesse. All in all, it's a good time to be a motorcycle racing fan.