Yamaha's 2009 YZF-R1 sports flagship made its world debut this week in a glittering presentation in front of 3000 Yamaha US dealers at the famous Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas.
It's scheduled for South African release at the end of the first quarter of 2009 but Yamaha SA is unsure at this stage of pricing or which colours we'll get.
All four Yamaha MotoGP riders - Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo, Colin Edwards and James Toseland - took part in the launch, each riding a different colour bike on to the stage and being interviewed about its relationship to the YZF-M1 MotoGP machineA 'big bang' engine combines the torque of a twin with the top-end rush of a four.
And that starts with its crankshaft. The 2009 R1 is the first road bike with a crossplane crankshaft, which has its con rods are spaced at 90 degrees instead of the traditional 180 degrees, with uneven firing intervals of 270, 180, 90 and 180 degrees.
The result is what's called a "big bang" engine, with a more linear power delivery than a conventional "screamer" engine, combining the low and mid-range torque of a twin with the hard-revving top-end rush of a four-cylinder engine.
Yes, it's more difficult (read expensive) to make and yes, it causes some odd vibrations but a coupling-type balancer that rotates in the opposite direction to the crankshaft takes care of the latter.
It's fed by Yamaha's fly-by-wire, chip-controlled electronic fuel injection with 12-hole, piezo-electronic injectors on variable-length intake manifolds to broaden the spread of power even furtherThe rider can set the bike's engine response to suit the riding conditions - on the fly.
New for 2009, however, are selectable mappings – as on the 2007 Suzuki GSX-R1000 - that allow the rider to set the bike's engine response to suit the riding conditions – on the fly, at the press of a button on the handlebars.
The "A" mode chops the top off the power delivery but delivers sportier engine response in the low to mid-range. "B" mode softens the throttle response throughout the range for wet or gravel roads (or for heavy traffic!) and the "C" mode unleashes the full monty - 133.9kW at 12 500rpm and 115.5Nm at 10 000, according to Yamaha.
The frame has been revised for maximum rigidity in the vertical plane with a predetermined amount of lateral flex and is welded from a combination of pressure diecast, stamped and gravity cast components. The bolt-on rear sub-frame is a one-piece, magnesium-alloy die-casting.
New MotoGP-spec SOQI front forks separate the compression and rebound functions. The left side handles compression damping and the right, rebound, each sepataely adjustable. The 2009 R1 is also the first with a factory-fitted electronic steering damper.
The new bodywork is, unexpectedly, plainer and smoother than the previous model, with less fussy little creases, corners and colour changes.
Instead of the previous model's four headlights the 2009 model has only two, round projector lights with hemispherical lenses, mounted in the ram-air ducts – which makes the fairing considerably narrower and more pointed.
Whether it will make the bike faster will have to be investigated in a wind tunnel – but it looks more streamlined.