‘They do ev­ery­thing very well. It’s not scary fast but fast enough!’

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Feature -

Yama­haõs orig­i­nal R1 was the bike that ripped up the su­per­bike rule book when launched in 1998 but its lit­tle brother was ar­guably even more sig­nif­i­cant. Yama­haõs R6, with its hard­core sports fo­cus, re­de­fined the su­per­port class and brought a proper race sen­sa­tion to a whole gen­er­a­tion.

And, by be­ing so quick and so good on track, the R6 was not only in­stru­men­tal in launch­ing the ca­reers of a whole new wave of up-and-com­ing young rac­ers, it ex­tended those of more than a few older ones, most promi­nently for­mer BSB, WSB and GP racer James Whitham.

ÒI never in­tended to race in su­per­sport at all,ó said Whitham, who al­most won the 2000 World Su­per­sport se­ries. Òafter my su­per­bike ca­reer, and spend­ing a bit of time on a GP bike, I con­sid­ered su­per­sport bikes to be shop­ping bikes! How­ever, as soon as I got on the Yamaha my mind was changed. The R6 was a proper lit­tle race bike and I in­stantly clicked with it.ó

The key dif­fer­ence with the R6 was that, for the first time, here was a no-com­pro­mise sports 600 us­ing the very best cy­cle parts and tech­nol­ogy. De­signed in par­al­lel with the R1, it shared many of its big­ger broth­erõs fea­tures, such as a ver­ti­cally stacked gear­box, elec­tro­plated bores and hol­low cams. And the re­sult, a claimed 120bhp, meant the R6 was the first four-stroke pro­duc­tion bike to hit a claimed 200bhp per litre.

The re­sult was that the R6 blitzed its 600 op­po­si­tion and by so much that all ri­vals were forced to fol­low suit. No longer would su­per­sports have the rounded ver­sa­til­ity of pre­de­ces­sors such as Hon­daõs CBR600F. In their place came a no-com­pro­mise, sport­ing at­ti­tude ex­em­pli­fied by bikes such as Hon­daõs CBR600RR, the new beam-framed Suzuki GSX-R600 and Kawasak­iõs B1 ZX-6R. Su­per­sports were never the same again.

And, for the best part of a decade at least, pun­ters lapped them up.

Reader Ol­lie Green­haigh was one of them. Òthe R6 was hugely sig­nif­i­cant to me,ó he told MCN. Òthis was my first big bike and I was in love from the mo­ment I first sat on it.ó

Jay Win­dard was an­other. ÒIT was my first big bike and I com­pletely fell in love,ó he told MCN. ÒIT was such a great ma­chine to ride and I just wanted to make it bet­ter and bet­ter.ó

Dan Green­field was a third. Òthe R6 was my sec­ond bike (af­ter a 2002 CBR600) and the per­fect upgrade,ó he told us. Òthey do ev­ery­thing very well. Itõs not scary fast but fast enough and very re­li­able. It was the best-look­ing bike on the mar­ket, too!ó

And while that R6 has evolved many times (most re­cently this year) and has been the ve­hi­cle for a long list of tech­no­log­i­cal in­tro­duc­tions over the years in­clud­ing fuel in­jec­tion and ride-by-wire, the Yama­haõs spirit and com­pelling ap­peal has al­ways re­mained the same. Itõs not only a pocket su­per­bike that has served as a per­fect in­tro­duc­tion to se­ri­ous sports ma­chin­ery. Itõs not merely an ef­fec­tive and hugely suc­cess­ful racing ma­chine Ð the R6 re­mains the su­per­sport bike of choice at the Isle of Man Ð itõs also sim­ply damn good fun as a thrash­happy sports scalpel with few equals. As Whitham dis­cov­ered, back in 1999.

ÒI al­ways got off an R6 think­ing IÕD thrashed it sense­less. I love the idea of riding a bike you can cane and get­ting the most out of it, which is why the R6 still brings out the de­mon in me.ó

You can cane it and get the most from it. The R6 still brings out the de­mon in me’ JAMES WHITHAM

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