SPORTING SCENE CALENDAR
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Montalegre, Portugal Hockenheim, Germany Mettet, Belgium Lydden Hill, Great Britain Hell, Norway Holjes Sweden Trois-rivieres, Canada Loheac, France Barcelona, Spain Riga, Latvia Estering, Germany Rosario, Argentina
March 13 April 3 April 17 May 8 May 22 June 12 June 27 July 10 July 23 August 14 September 18 Ross and District Motor Sports Ltd March 13 Bath Motor Club April 10 CSMA (North East London) April 17 Oxford Motor Club April 24 Farnborough and District Motor Club May 8 Ilkley and District Motor Club May 15 Sixty and Worcestershire Motor Club May 22 Abingdon Carnival June 11 Bristol Motor CLUB/CSMA (NW) June 19 Loughborough Car Club July 17 Bath Motor Club August 21 Ross and District Motor Sports Ltd September 18 Oxford Motor Club October 2 Knutsford and District Motor Club October 16 Sixty and Worcestershire Motor Club October 23 Motorsport at the Palace, Crystal Palace, London Cholmondeley Pageant of Power, Cheshire Goodwood Festival of Speed, West Sussex Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, Colorado, USA London to Brighton Veteran Car Run, Hyde Park, London
There’s no doubt the first question going through your mind when you see this is ‘what is it? A buggy? A quad bike? A Baja racer?’ and the answer is a little of all of them. Technically, the new Yamaha YXZ1000R – catchy name – is a sports Side by Side or Ultimate Terrain Vehicle and it represents a new class of machine now racing worldwide.
Yamaha pioneered the class with the launch of the Rhino model in 2004; it was originally designed for the utility market but it was quickly adopted by the All-terrain Vehicle off-road racing scene in the USA. Soon a whole new class of motorsport was born, with Rhinos competing in everything from short track racing to full Baja desert contests. However, it was other manufacturers – Polaris, Arctic Cat and Can-am – that took the genre to the next level with dedicated sportscars designed for fun and racing rather than for farmers.
Since then the UTV racing market has exploded. Polaris leads the way, with the RZR that, along with the Arctic Cat Wildcat and the Cam-am Maverick, is now racing in multiple race series across the US, Europe and Asia with their own classes in long range events such as the Baja 1000 and even the Dakar Rally. But it’s taken until now for Yamaha to launch its own pure sports UTV with the YXZ1000R.
This is an important car for Yamaha. In the 10 years since it pioneered the class the game has moved forward considerably. The Polaris RZR XP 1000 is now turbocharged, with over 140bhp, and is the car to beat. The YXZ1000R needs to be a game changer. And there is one particular feature that really does justify using that term – a sequential manual transmission.
Up until this point all UTV cars have had continuously variable transmissions, with which power to the wheels is determined by a series of primary and secondary clutches connected by a belt, which moves up and down to represent different wheel speeds. This system suffers from two major flaws. Firstly, as the belt moves up and down a series of pulleys, it gets very hot and CVT belt failure is common. Secondly, a good 20-25 per cent of your power is lost through the belt and drive system.
The YXZ1000R has a five-speed manual transmission with a sequential shift. The gearbox is mounted in front of the engine for better weight displacement and is mated to Yamaha’s switchable fourwheel-drive transmission, which is able to switch to two-speed at the flick of a switch at pretty much any speed. The system also provides for a full diff lock option.
The other major ‘game changing’ part of the YXZ1000R is its heart. It has a three-cylinder engine that should give a better spread of power over the twin-cylinder engines used by all the other manufacturers. The YXZ1000R unit, while derived from Yamaha’s extensive snowmobile range, is a whole new engine, boasting 998cc capacity, liquid cooling, four stroke with a dry sump (another sector first). It produces approximately 120bhp and has a 10,500rpm red line. On paper it’s a real screamer: typical Yamaha.
The critical element of these kinds of cars is the suspension set-up, their light weight means they will skip about on rough tracks and the slightest yump will mean you’re airborne. Again, Yamaha has spent some time developing the set-up.
So, what’s it like to drive? Fun. The addition of the sequential gearbox opens up the car to a completely different feel, the low clutch pedal makes for an easy getaway and pretty soon you are revving away towards the 10,500 limit. Changing gear soon becomes the best part; a slight touch on the clutch and slam the gearshift back. Pretty soon I was flat-shifting, which needed just a slight touch on the clutch pedal.
The car pretty much pulled from about 4000rpm but was really on song from about 7000 all the way through the rev range to the 10,500 limit. Coming from an Arctic Cat Wildcat with an 8000rpm limit, I felt I was straining the engine in terms of noise but once you got over that psychological hurdle you realised that the Yamaha liked it rough, which was the same for the gearbox. It was only when you babied it on shifting that it missed.
I got the chance to try out some of the manoeuvres that we are faced with in UK cross country racing, which wasn’t easy as the launch event was at Glamis, California – 50 square miles of sand dunes. In a typical Britpart MSA British Cross Country round we are flat-out on a gravel track, quickly followed by a very slow, tight turn in into some much rougher cross country sections. With the Yamaha I was able to slam the brakes on (two-pot rotors all round, 245mm discs – huge for a UTV), bang down four gears, then use first or second gear to spin the car on its axis and accelerate out. Like a typical off-road race car in other words.
There were around 30 YXZ1000RS present, it got to 110 degrees and the cars were driven by all manner of racers and journalists, some of whom had never driven such a car and some of whom were champion UTV racers. Not once did I see a Yamaha technician even approach a car to check it over. We went out, caned them silly, lined up to get more fuel, then parked up. That’s it. Clearly they have confidence in the car.
Any downsides? Well the jury is out on whether the Yamaha will beat the new Polaris RZR XP Turbo but the Arctic Cat Wildcat, Maverick and normally aspirated RZR XP 1000 look defeated.
The conditions also left a question in mind; how will the brakes react in Welsh mud? For racing in the UK they are going to need extended wheel covers (for MSA regulations), which won’t be too hard to do, along with different seats and the cage welding rather than bolting on but that’s it. It’s not going to take a king’s ransom to get this to the start line.
Add that to the fact that the Yamaha is nearly £4000 cheaper than the RZR or the Can-am and you see just how much potential the package has. ■