Tuesday, December 23, 2008

2009 Yamaha R1 vs early-1990s Yamaha 500cc GP racers

The 1992 Yamaha YZR500 GP racer had a bit more than 160bhp at the rear wheel. The 2009 Yamaha YZF-R1 has the same. If that isn't progress, what is...?!

According to a recent press release from Akrapovic, the 2009 Yamaha R1, in stock form, produces 161.6bhp at 12,430rpm, with the power being measured at the rear wheel. With an Akrapovic slip-on, the R1’s peak power goes up to 163.9bhp at 12,410rpm. The Akrapovic system also has the option to do away with the catalytic converter, boosting power to 164.2bhp at 12,410rpm and fattening the power delivery throughout the rev range.

But, for this story, we’re actually more interested in the stock R1 and the 161bhp it delivers at the back wheel. That really is a shocking amount of power on a streetbike with a kerb weight of 206 kilos. Yamaha’s two-stroke 500cc GP racing bikes were making that much power back in the early-1990s, and those required a huge amount of experience and talent to ride. Oh, well, that’s probably an understatement. You actually couldn’t ride a late-1980s/early-1990s Yamaha YZR500 unless you were in the same league as Wayne Rainey and Eddie Lawson…

You needed the talent of a Rainey or Lawson to be able to ride the YZR500. Thanks to its electronics, the R1 doesn't need you to be Rossi...

Yamaha started development work on the YZR500 GP racer in the early-1970s and the first of these bikes went racing in 1973. In those days, the YZR’s power output was around 80bhp, which had gone up to 180bhp by the late-1990s – an increase of 125% in a time span of 25 years. The R1 has not too badly either – the first 1998 model had around 130bhp at the rear wheel, which has grown to 164bhp in the space of 10 years – an increase of 26%.

Which brings us to just how important a modern sportsbike’s electronics are. You had to be a Rainey, Lawson, Mamola, Cadalora, Capirossi or Kocinski to ride one of those 160bhp early-1990s YZR500s, while just about any reasonably experienced motorcyclist can jump on a 164bhp 2009 R1, ride off and not be killed in the next five minutes. That, we suppose, is only made possible by the raft of electronics that do duty on new R1s.

2009 Yamaha R1, the equivalent of a 500cc Grand Prix racer for the street?

The 1992 Yamaha YZR500, on which Wayne Rainey won his last 500cc world championship, had an aluminium ‘Deltabox’ chassis, ‘Monocross’ rear suspension and USD fork, carburetted two-stroke engine, carbon brake discs, the Yamaha Power Valve System (YPVS) and… we can’t think of much else in the way of gizmos, electronics or path-breaking technologies.

The 2009 Yamaha R1, on the other hand, has terribly impressive sounding bits like Yamaha Chip Control Intake (YCC-I), Yamaha Chip Control Throttle (YCC-T) and D-Mode, which lets you modulate and optimise throttle response according to road and weather conditions. Rainey, with his Godly riding skill, didn’t need these bits to control his YZR's 160 rear-wheel horsepower. For most of, we’d be toast without the electronics on the R1.

The best part is, no matter how much money you have, you probably can’t a 1992 Yamaha YZR500. On the other hand, you can buy a brand-new R1 for a mere US$12,500. A bike that’s as powerful as Rainey’s 1992 YZR500, for the street, which you can actually just walk into a showroom and buy? You’ve got to love technology…

We'll never be able to ride like Rainey, Lawson or Rossi. But bikes like the R1 at least bring us closer to that 164bhp-at-the-rear-wheel experience, and thank god for that!

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