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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. ■

Trick drivetrain could be a big step for­ward for the cat­e­gory

High-revving en­gine pow­ers YXZ

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