Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Face off: 1989 Yamaha OW01 vs 2008 Yamaha R1!

Does 20 years of superbike development make the 2008 R1 a better machine than the 1989 FZR750RR...?
The World Superbikes championship series kicked off in 1988, and by 1989, Yamaha had launched the FZR750RR, which was built with one aim in mind – to win WSBK races at any cost. Also known as the OW01, the FZR750RR was made to get the better of Ducati 851s, Honda RC30s, Suzuki GSX-R750s and Kawasaki ZXR750s in World Superbike racing.

The 187kg (dry weight) OW01’s high-revving, liquid-cooled, 750cc, 20-valve, four-cylinder, carbureted engine made 120 horsepower at the crank – impressive stuff in those days. The bike was fitted with Yamaha’s stiff, lightweight ‘Deltabox’ chassis (made of aluminium), fully adjustable Ohlins rear shock, 43mm front fork, six-speed close-ratio gearbox, 17-inch wheels, and various titanium and magnesium bits to keep the weight down.

Exotic, expensive and fast - the FZR750RR OW01 is probably the most lust-worthy Yamaha ever made!
This was a racer-with-lights, so ergonomics were uncompromising – barely padded seat, high footpegs and low bars made it clear that this bike was not for pootling around town. Yamaha only made 500 units of the OW01, which was just as well – the bike was very expensive, costing two million yen in 1989 in Japan (about US$17,400 at current exchange rates) and about US$25,500 elsewhere. And if that wasn’t enough, you could spend another US$5,000 on buying a racing kit from Yamaha, which would get you more fancy bits for your FZR750RR.

Despite all of this, the OW01 wasn’t really as successful as, say, the Honda VFR750R RC30 or the Ducati 851, in World Superbike racing. And for the street, for most people, the Yamaha FZR1000 offered more usable performance at a significantly lower price. Sure, the FZR1000 never handled as well as the race-bred OW01, but on the street, where few dared to push to ten-tenths, that did not matter.

Heavier, less powerful, slower and not as good looking as the OW01, the YZF750 wasn't really a very good follow up to the mighty FZR750RR
The FZR750RR was succeeded by the rather less remarkable YZF750, which in stock form was heavier and less powerful than the OW01. The YZF R7 OW02 came much later, and though it was strikingly good looking, it was a bit underpowered and again, wasn’t very successful in World Superbike racing. The FZR1000 EXUP, on the other hand, ultimately led to the YZF1000 Thunderace and finally, in 1998, the mighty R1. The latter, with the demise of the 750s in World Superbikes, continues to be Yamaha’s top of the line offering today.

Now that almost 20 years have passed since the OW01 was launched, it’s interesting to compare that bike with Yamaha’s 2008 R1, pics of which were unveiled only yesterday. With 20 years of advances in motorcycle engineering, electronics and technology, it isn’t surprising to see that the R1 offers far more performance at a much lower cost.

The 2008 R1 offers huge performance gains over the old FZR, at a much lower cost. Such is sportsbike progress...
Compared with the FZR750RR, the new R1 (which also has a 250cc engine displacement advantage) has about 50 more horsepower, in a package that weighs about 10kg less. So while the OW01 had a power to weight ratio of 1:1.56, the newest R1 has a ratio of 1:1. It also has a more substantial swingarm, USD front forks, computer-controlled fuel injection, ride-by-wire throttle control, a variable air-intake system and more powerful brakes.

With equally capable riders on each bike, we don’t think even the exotic old OW01 would be able to keep up with an R1 today!

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