Friday, February 27, 2009

Toyoshi Nishida: “We wanted to make the new R1 exciting to ride…!”


Rossi's bike for the street? Yeah, well, the 2009 R1 is probably as close as most of us can get...

Is Toyoshi Nishida the next Tadao Baba? Baba, the man responsible for the first ‘wild child’ Honda CBR900RR FireBlade, became a cult figure who is even today idolised by fans of the original ’Blade.

When it was launched in 1992, the FireBlade was an absolute revelation – the world had not seen anything like it before. And, it seems, the 2009 Yamaha R1 is a similar step in superbike evolution. In one fell swoop, it has raised the bar and changed the game, making all other Japanese litre-class sportsbikes look dated. So much so that in the years to come, Toyoshi Nishida, the 2009 R1 project leader at Yamaha, just might be looked upon as the new Tadao Baba…

‘The crossplane crankshaft gives a very gentle torque feeling, a less aggressive character than the old R1. We wanted to make the bike exciting to ride, so we focused on providing good injection control and a very linear feel from the throttle,’ says Nishida. ‘This makes the bike very exciting to ride, and it’s very fast too. We tested with many riders of different levels and the new bike is always faster. Riders of all skill levels had the same comment – that the new model is very controllable,’ he adds.

But why didn’t Yamaha fit anti-lock brakes and/or traction control on the new R1? Isn’t that a serious oversight? ‘At this moment, I don’t think the most important thing is to help the rider who miscontrols [?!] the bike. The priority is to give the rider a linear feel, which is more enjoyable and also safer,’ says Nishida. ‘For the same reason we didn’t fit ABS, although we considered it. At this moment, the most important thing is to provide the rider with very precise control,’ he adds.

Finally, what about the MotoGP-style exhaust system that many were expecting to see on the 2009 R1? ‘We considered using a shorter exhaust system, like the one on the M1 and R6, instead of the high-level system. But we had many things to consider, including the length and straightness of the exhaust, which affect performance, and the new, lower, rear suspension linkage. There was not much space under the engine,’ concludes Nishida.

Indeed, it looks like Yamaha have done things right with the 2009 YZF-R1. ‘Before riding this bike, and with the brilliance of Ducati’s 1198S fresh in my mind, I thought Yamaha had missed a trick in updating the R1 so comprehensively without adding traction control,’ says noted bike journalist Roland Brown, who recently tested the new R1 at the Eastern Creek circuit. ‘Time to think again. The electronic aids will, inevitably, come soon. But in the meanwhile, this version of the R1 is not simply the best yet – it’s a significant step forward whose edge is gained via its rider’s brain and right wrist – surely the purest, most satisfying way possible,’ he adds.

Hmm… sounds good to us, though we don’t know if we’re convinced about Yamaha’s decision to leave ABS out of the equation. On the street, especially in tricky road/weather conditions, even the best riders can and do mess up, and ABS is an invaluable safety aid in such situations. Then again, that also leaves something to look forward to in 2010…


Toyoshi Nishida speaks about the 2009 Yamaha R1...

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