Yamaha has been pretty good at surprising the competition by countering trends. For instance, while everyone was thinking about big-bore four-stroke motocross and enduro bikes (400cc and up), Yamaha was ready to introduce the YZ/WR250F lightweight motocrosser/enduro. Is Yamaha about to do the same thing to open-class sportbikes?
More than any other company, Yamaha has encouraged press coverage of its prototype GP four-stroke, the YZR-M1. Yamaha even hired a journalist, Matt Oxley, to write a story about the machine’s developement and the reactions of Yamaha’s test riders (including Max Biaggi and John Kocinski) to the machine. Why has Yamaha fed the press information about this bike, while other manufacturers are relatively secretive about the developement of their four-stroke GP machines?
The answer may be that Yamaha’s R1 replacement will be marketed as a relative of the exotic racer. Yamaha admits the race bike is well under the 990cc engine size limit set by GP rules, and rumors have surfaced that the R1 replacement will displace approximately 900cc.
If Yamaha in fact replaces the R1 with a 900, expect the company to reach for new boundaries in size and weight for the class. The new engine should also be much more efficient than the R1, and create higher peak horsepower despite its smaller size. Yamaha should introduce its replacement for the R1 in September of this year.