Riding a winner

YAMAHA Australia recently invited ol’ Smarty out to Queensland Raceway to have a crack at Kevin Curtain’s championship winning Yamaha YZF-R1 and YZF-R6 racers so along with up-and-coming road race star Josh McGrath we hit the track to see what makes these blue beasts so special.

The R1: Apparently the Formula Extreme rules don’t allow for major changes to the standard machinery but the R1 that Yamaha has put together for KC has an Ohlins TTX Shock, Ohlins fork internals and Ohlins steering damper to look after the handling while the engine is given a bit more mumbo thanks to the Power Commander and Titanium Exhaust.
There are also a plethora of peripheral items around the bike that make it very trick but all I want is power and handling, right?

If you have ever ridden around Queensland Raceway on anything that is vaguely fast there are two things that will surprise you. One is how bumpy the track is and second how short the straights are when a well fettled 1000cc motor is running you from corner to corner.
My time on the R1 was only a handful of laps (that was my choice) but it was enough time for me to look on admiringly when 16 year old Josh McGrath jumped on and started ripping laps off like it he had been riding it since he was a baby (which wasn’t that long ago).

You see, on a motocross track or even on a good trail ride our average speed would probably be around 45 to 60 km/h so my speed perception on the R1 was all out. I simply could not get my head around how fast this thing would go when you pulled the throttle to the stoppers but then again, I was thankful to how well the Goodridge braided line assisted brakes pulled me up as well.
At my speed, mid corner stability was great and obviously I would find little fault in the Ohlins suspension or the Dunlop controlled tyres through Josh was managing to get a nice slide out of turn five….GULP!

Honestly, I was standing next to track watching Josh enjoy his first ever ride on a 1000cc racer and before long he is coming onto the main straight full throttle with the R1 looking for traction and five corners later he rips off this huge slide out of the left hander in the middle of the track. Bloody 16 year olds!

“That is the most amazing motorcycle I have ever ridden, that power is so sweet,” said Josh after his initiation into the world of 1000cc Formula Extreme machinery. “The front suspension was great, I felt comfortable under brakes and at no time did I feel like I was going to lose the front when I tipped it in which gave me the ability to pull the throttle on early in the corner. I love it.”

The R6: Like the R1 there isn’t a lot they can do to the stock R6 and still make is comply with the Superstock rules so the KC bike has a ‘modified’ rear shock, Ohlins fork internals, Ohlins steering damper, Power Commander and ‘Racing’ Exhaust with a GYTR slip-on muffler. After my R1 experience I was thinking I might be able to give the R6 a bit more curry and ride the wheels off the ‘little’ 600 but I was sadly mistaken.

This thing is a dead-set rocket, and although the bike was still beyond my ability, the mid corner stability allowed me to get on the throttle a lot earlier than the R1. Once you have this thing floating around red line the braking marks come up REAL fast, but once again the brakes are nothing short of sensational.
Since he owns, has raced and won on an R6 already I figured Josh would be able to get some serious pace out of Curtain’s R6 and I wasn’t wrong. Even with my words ‘don’t you bin this’ ringing in his ears McGrath was able to get around in the mid to low 1 minute 14 second bracket (Josh easily does 1.13 sec laps on his 2009 R6).

“Compared to my 2009 R6 this thing is incredible, not so much power wise, even though it is a little faster than my bike but the front forks felt unreal, I have done a heap of laps around this track and I have never had so much confidence in the front as I did just then, I could have easily gone a lot faster,” said McGrath after his ride.
I am the first to admit that I am no gun as a road racer but I can see how a rider with the experience of Kevin Curtain could get the most out of these two machines and win championships.
Josh and I really liked the way the power is fed on so smoothly from idle to red line and with the suspension and brakes offering all the feedback and confidence a rider could want we can only take our hat off to the crew at Yamaha.

Josh and I would like to thank all of the people at Yamaha for letting us ride the championship winning YZF-R1 and YZF-R6 and in particular Scott Bishop for his assistance throughout the day.

We also got to ride the ‘works’ Yamaha YZ450F based road racer on the day, so look out for that test in an upcoming issue of Cycle Torque.

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