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At the launch of Yamaha’s new Wolver­ine side-by-side off-roader late last year, Yamaha showed off its up­com­ing YXZ1000R ROV (Recre­ational Off-road Ve­hi­cle). With only two ex­am­ples of this 1000cc su­per-sport beast in the coun­try at the time, Yamaha erred on the side of cau­tion and told us we’d have to wait another cou­ple of months for a drive.

True to his word, Yamaha’s PR man Sean Gold­hawk soon in­vited us along to ex­pe­ri­ence the YXZ for our­selves.

So what is the YXZ1000R? Think light­weight, com­pact buggy pow­ered by a po­tent 998cc en­gine out of a top­spec snow­mo­bile and kit­ted out with long-travel sus­pen­sion with top-shelf Fox rac­ing dampers. In other words, the YXZ1000R is de­signed to go se­ri­ously fast over the kind of ter­rain you’d find only on an off-road rac­ing course, which is pre­cisely where Yamaha had brought us.

We were at the Syd­ney Off Road Rac­ing As­so­ci­a­tion’s (SORRA) fa­cil­ity at Colo Park, north-west of Syd­ney. The track fea­tures a cou­ple of long straights, a big jump, a se­ries of whoops, a cou­ple of nicely banked berms and some of­f­cam­ber sandy cor­ners.

Driv­ing any ROV re­quires one to don the cor­rect rid­ing/pro­tec­tive gear, and in the case of the YXZ that in­cluded a hel­met, gog­gles, gloves and long sleeves. Once ap­pro­pri­ately at­tired and set­tled into the con­toured bucket seat, the driver is fronted with a small-di­am­e­ter sports steer­ing wheel, an in­stru­ment panel with a mas­sive tacho, bright shift light and dig­i­tal speedo, a stubby lever for the se­quen­tial-shift five-speed gear­box and a big park brake lever. It’s def­i­nitely all busi­ness in this cock­pit, with the only con­ve­niences a cen­tre stor­age bin and latch­ing glove­box on the pas­sen­ger side.

With seat ad­justed and buckle clasped, I fired up the en­gine and was sur­prised by the muted re­sponse; the muf­fler does a good job at keep­ing en­gine noise in check, although there’s a nice raspy sound to the ex­haust note that only an in­line triple can pro­duce. I was read the riot act and told to obey my co-pi­lot, who in this case was Daniel Mcken­zie, an off-road rid­ing coach with loads of ex­pe­ri­ence in this arena. I se­lected first gear, built up the revs, eased out the Rek­luse clutch and made my way to the track en­trance. After a pause to check for traf­fic, we headed out on to the main straight.

The en­gine is a rip­per with loads of torque from low in the rev range to the mid-range. Daniel in­structed me to up­shift with an ob­vi­ous hand sig­nal, so we were up into third gear and do­ing around 70km/h by the time we reached the first set of whoops. I tested the brake re­sponse be­fore the sus­pen­sion soaked up the first hard-packed whoop like we had driven over noth­ing more than a soft cush­ion. After the whoops we rode high around a left-hand berm and then Dan in­structed

me to turn in early and hit the go-pedal. After a lit­tle slide from the rear-end, we got up to around 80km/h in fourth gear in no time at all and, be­fore I knew it, it was time to down­shift again for another left­hander be­fore we were back on the gas and ac­cel­er­at­ing along the main straight to­wards the jump.

Dan kept me over to the left and yelled “keep it smooth” as we ap­proached the jump at about 60 clicks. I doubt we even got air at that speed as the land­ing felt like lit­tle more than a soft com­pres­sion, with beau­ti­fully con­trolled re­bound. I was treated to another three laps, grad­u­ally build­ing up pace and be­com­ing more ac­cus­tomed to the YXZ, be­fore it was time to let some­one else have a go.

The YXZ’S in­line triple is based on the en­gine used in Yamaha’s FX Nitro MTX snow­mo­bile. It’s a high-per­for­mance DOHC pow­er­plant with three Mikuni 41mm throt­tle bod­ies, 11.3:1 com­pres­sion, a 10,500rpm red­line and dry-sump lu­bri­ca­tion. Due to the gen­er­ally dusty ter­rain in which the YXZ op­er­ates, there’s a dual-stage air fil­ter, with an oiled foam unit the pri­mary el­e­ment and a pa­per fil­ter the se­condary stage.

While other man­u­fac­tur­ers equip their ROVS with con­stantly vari­able trans­mis­sions (CVTS), Yamaha has opted for a five-speed man­ual se­quen­tial-shift gear­box in the YXZ, say­ing it re­sults in bet­ter re­sponse with in­stant trans­fer of power to the driv­ing wheels. The front diff fea­tures a torque lim­iter for over­load pro­tec­tion and there’s a low-main­te­nance rear-diff-mounted park­ing brake. The four­wheel drive sys­tem of­fers 2WD, 4WD and 4WD diff-lock.

The YXZ of­fers an im­pres­sive 330mm of ground clearance and, if that’s not enough, the un­der­side is pro­tected by tough, 4-6mm thick ther­mo­plas­tic olefin (TPO) guards.

The fully in­de­pen­dent sus­pen­sion has long A-arms with op­ti­mised cas­tor, bump steer and Ack­er­mann through­out the travel and steer­ing an­gle… and there’s a hell of a lot of travel, with 406mm up front and 432mm at the rear. While you might think $30K is a lot, the top-shelf Fox rac­ing shock ab­sorbers are a good ex­am­ple of where your money goes. Th­ese po­si­tion-sen­si­tive shocks of­fer an ad­di­tional 3000lb of damp­ing force in the last 25 per cent of the stroke, which is the key to pre­vent­ing bot­tom­ing-out

The 993cc en­gine is a rip­per with loads of torque from low in the range

The way it soaks up big bumps and jumps makes it such a blast

when land­ing big jumps or hit­ting big ob­sta­cles. Their large-di­am­e­ter bore and re­mote reser­voir de­sign means there’s plenty of oil ca­pac­ity for good cool­ing and per­for­mance in harsh con­di­tions, and the dampers also of­fer preload ad­just­ment, hig­h­and low-speed com­pres­sion ad­just­ment, as well as re­bound ad­just­ment, so they can be per­fectly tai­lored to con­di­tions.

As ROVS run rel­a­tively low tyre pres­sures (around 14psi), the ag­gres­sive 27x9.0in R14 front and 27x11.0in R14 rear Maxxis tyres are held on to the YXZ’S al­loy rims with bead locks to keep them on the rims. On the dry SORRA cir­cuit the tyres of­fered plenty of bite, even out of the soft sandy cor­ners.

After a few off-road runs on another of the fa­cil­ity’s tracks in a Yamaha Wolver­ine, I headed back to the fast cir­cuit for my sec­ond run in the YXZ1000R. This time, I felt far more con­fi­dent and started to get more air over the jump and more side­ways ac­tion in cor­ners, but with a co-pi­lot in­struct­ing me to short-shift at around 5000-6000rpm, I didn’t get the chance to re­ally sam­ple this racer’s full po­ten­tial un­til the end of the day, when Yamaha had a spe­cial treat for us: a high­speed run in the YXZ with an off-road rac­ing pro­fes­sional be­hind the wheel.

Now, I’m not a good pas­sen­ger at the best of times, but a full-tilt run around a nar­row and bumpy race track edged with big trees, in a ve­hi­cle with­out doors, pi­loted by a bloke who I’d only just met, was, well, some­what ex­hil­a­rat­ing. It showed me just how fast and agile this lit­tle beasty can go!

It’s not just the en­gine per­for­mance of the Yamaha YXZ that makes it such a blast but the way it can be thrown around in cor­ners, the way it han­dles off-cam­ber bends, and the way it soaks up big bumps and jumps. Rac­ers I spoke to at this event reckon the YXZ1000R is faster than many be­spoke off-road rac­ing bug­gies worth at least three times as much.

The YXZ1000R is avail­able in two mod­els: the Team Yamaha Blue is $29,999 and the 60th An­niver­sary Yel­low is $31,999. That’s a fair bit for a ve­hi­cle that can only be driven on pri­vate land, but Yamaha is not wait­ing around for leg­is­la­tion changes to build a mar­ket for the YXZ.

In­stead, it has teamed with the MX Na­tion­als (Australian Mo­tocross Championship) pro­moter to run an ROV race se­ries at sev­eral Mo­tocross events through­out the year, and it will also run a se­ries of en­durance races at venues through­out the coun­try (see side­bar). There will also be a num­ber of dealer events and demo drives through­out the year.

All-indy sus­pen­sion pro­vides plenty of sup­ple travel. Yahama’s light­weight Elec­tric Power Steer­ing (EPS) is pin-point.

It’s a fac­tory built racer, not re­ally an in­dus­try/ru­ral rig.

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