Yamaha YZF-R1M

Performance Bikes (UK) - - RACE LEGEND -

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

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