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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10 comments:

The Duke said...

Actually you CAN buy an old YZR 500, it would be one of the ROC or Harris framed bikes, which were actually better chassis wise. Wayne Rainey used them in several races.

The thing you didn't note here is that the 500 weighed 286lbs and the new R1 is a touch over 400 full of fluids.

As nice as the new R1 is, as great as it sounds, I'll take the YZR500 five ways to Sunday.

Anonymous said...

Of course the difference is not all electronics. You can't just compare horsepower figures like that. They're very different bikes, different power delivery, geometry, brakes, tires and obviously there's the difference between racing and "trying" to go fast. It is said that these GP500 bikes were deceptively easy to ride, in that they'd give a false sense of confidence and suddenly when you tried pushing a bit more you'd be flying upside down in the air in a split second.

Bram said...

I am curious... how much does the GP racer weigh?

George D'Souza said...

YZR500 vs R1? Come on, you've got to be kidding. The two may have the same 160 odd bhp but the GP racer would be so much lighter and stiffer, and its power delivery would be so fierce, so unrelenting. Comparing the two is like comparing a killer rottweiler to a cute little poodle... ;-D

Richard Mason said...

Pitting the 1990s YZR500 against the current R1 is actually a brilliant idea. Now all I want is that some bike magazine should actually get the two bikes out on a circuit and compare them back to back - acceleration, top speed, lap times and so on. The results just might be astonishing!

Anonymous said...

YZR500 KO1.

No competition really. The R1 is too bloody heavy.

Anonymous said...

You can compare them, Rossi is riding one now. Compare lap times of now compared to Wayne Rainey and there is your answer on which is faster.

yamaha hpdi... said...

yes nowdays rossi writes better times on the same tracks but its 15 years of gp evolution later...can you imagine the gap? 15 years later we wonder which bike is faster and still the mathematical brains measure the 2 strokes faster and lighter in every possible scenario.
we cannot ignore the wimple mechanical laws ,the 4 stroke consuming marketing hype cannot beat the 2 stroke pure advantages.its just a matter of time a big industry like brp uses direct injection in 2s v engines...then we will talk about engine emission regulations,horse power /torgue ,weights,consumption and the most important for REAL people,cost of owning.... till then,long live the valve interval costs!

Anonymous said...

What we MUST remember is that it is NOT just engines that have advanced over the last 20 yrs or so. Tyres and Forks/Shocks have advanced so much that if you took the 1990s bike and put 2010 tyres/suspension on it the 1990s shod bike would be a few seconds a lap behind the bike that had the new Rubber & Springs on it.

Oh and I forgot about Carbon brake discs, Traction control, etc. I would put my cash on the new bike every time, all other things being equal.

Anonymous said...

I dont buy it . The r 1 would just be too heavy in comparison . How much difference does a passenger make ? The r1 is not a street legal 500 gp and there's much more going on than electronics . Would love to see what they could get out of 500 gp bikes today after 15 years of progress . Or 1000 2 stroke . Savage power I think .