THE DUCATI MIGHT have covered itself in glory, but the Yamaha disgraced itself, to begin with at least. To start with, it threw up a fault code on the dyno (owing to the front wheel being stationary with a moving rear). And, unlike the Euro 3 version, it doesn’t clear a few miles later when it starts getting correct readings, as Euro 4 regulations specifically forbid vehicles from clearing fault codes unchecked.
The upshot is that all the electronic settings were frozen: traction, slide and wheelie control, plus the ERS menus. So it couldn’t be set up before a dealer reset. We thought we’d try it anyway: two laps later, it returned spraying oil on Rutter’s swanky bespoke-liveried boots. That’ll serve him, the flash git...
In fairness, neither instances are Yamaha’s fault: we weren’t aware the dyno would have that effect, and the oil spraying can be laid at the door of a lesser magazine who put some engine case covers on the bike and, unbeknownst to Yamaha, removed them and stretched the single-use OE aluminium side cover bolts before returning it. Under intense track use they weren’t able to maintain a seal. Cretins...
So the Yamaha set its time another day: code cleared, bolts replaced. Thankfully, both tests were set in similar heatwave conditions. Then it was business as usual for the R1M: beautifully suited to fast corners and hard drive, it makes light work of three quarters of Donington’s GP layout.
“They’re so nice,” Michael says after a couple of runs. You can’t really fault it – the fuelling, power delivery and handling are all superb. The linked brakes and ABS still aren’t too good, but not as bad as I remember.”
Technically, they are: the hydraulic and electrical elements are the same, with the infernal linked rear to the front lever. But 2018’s autoblipper has smoothed out downchanges, so there’s no locking of the back wheel when you release the clutch to trigger the ABS, so the limits of the system are a little harder to run into, and the irritating/disconcerting sensation of brakes releasing in Donington’s twin hairpins is reduced...
The R1 always had excellent traction and slide control, coupled with a naturally high level of mechanical grip. But the detail changes to the wheelie control have enhanced its exit strategy even further.
“The wheelie control is very good – very smooth, and it doesn’t feel like it’s holding it back, just managing drive without shutting it off. It’s very impressive.”
Like the Ducati, the Yamaha develops a significant
vibration from the rear when the tyre turns on the rim, putting it out of balance. It’s unprecedented in all the Rutter tests we’ve done. Both sets of tyres were fitted days before the test, so still-wet tyre soap can’t be blamed. Tyre supplier to BSB, Complog UK, were present on the day and suggest not using any lube at all is the solution. A squirt of hairspray is the only thing they’ve found that allows easier fitment without slip.
It’s an indication of the level that tyres, engine, chassis and electronics have reached – instead of spinning up or stepping out, the overall package is now capable of putting so much power to the floor that the friction between rim/bead is now the weak link. Don’t be surprised if OE rims start to come with a rough, grippy surface inside to prevent such things.
The 2017 bike’s 1:37.1 best lap is surpassed pretty quickly, dipping in to the 36 bracket with ERS in Track mode. But given it’s the same components and software as the Ducati, we try a fixed setting to our liking. Further tenths come off, and it achieves a best of 1:36.55. Two hundredths of a second slower than last month’s ZX-10RR, but two tenths adrift of the Ducati.
“The semi-active mode is very good, but you still get that little bit of extra feel in manual mode, and it makes a difference mid-corner because it behaves a little bit more predicatably. If you don’t understand suspension, the semi-active mode is going to be great, because pushing a button gets you a track setting that’s going to be good enough for most people.”
It’s hugely impressive, especially as it’s over £4000 cheaper than the Ducati. But for Rutter, the time doesn’t tell the whole story. “The problem is, everything else feels tame next to the Ducati. It’s really like a GP bike, and even if you’re not going faster, it feels incredible. It’s a riding experience you can’t buy anywhere else.”
BEST L AP TIME 1.36:55S
Rutter finds it hard to fault the handling
More refined wheelie control gives it an edge
Michael can’t resist giving it a little stroke when nobody’s watching