Think of it as a (sports) tourer and the big, mellow, dependable ’ace will not disappoint
YAMAHA YZF1000R THUNDERACE
YWords: Alan Seeley Pictures: Bauer archive
amaha would have been well into the development of the YZF-R1 by the time the YZF1000R Thunderace broke cover in 1996. By making the best of what they already had in their inventory the Thunderace gave Yamaha a fresh litre-bike that was lighter and faster than the FZR1000 EXUP and brought them closer to the all-conquering Honda Fireblade until the R1 was ready.
The basic recipe featured a 20-valve engine with more than passing relation to the FZR1000 fitted into a frame closely based on the sublime YZF750. Indeed more than one 750 owner has performed such a transplant themselves.
There was power aplenty from the the bottom-end right up to the 11,500rpm redline, delivered to the rear wheel via what might appear on paper as a one-cog-behind-the-times five-speed gearbox but its close ratios were adequate for the big, grunty motor even if many able home mechanics later fitted a YZF750 sixspeed cluster.
The fairing claimed a YZR500 GP bike inspired drag co-efficient of 0.29 and to our eye looks like it might
have inspired Pierre Terblanche when he came to design the fuel injected Ducati 900SS.
While handling might have lagged a little behind Suzuki’s GSX-R750 and of course the Honda Fireblade, there was little to complain about when it came to the Thunderace’s steering in the context of its times. Indeed Yamaha dealer Steve Linsdell of Flitwick Motorcycles, who raced one in the production class on the Isle of Man, reckons that with better suspension, the Thunderace would have bested the ’Blade. Stoppingwise, blue spot front calipers were as good as many and better than most.
After just two short years the Thunderace would make the instant switch from flagship sportsbike to sports-tourer in the Yamaha line with the arrival of the R1 although it would still be on sale as late as 2003.
Big, fast and spacious, the Thunderace offers old school big-bike performance.to those who don’t need full-on sportsbike performance, the Thunderace was and is a good choice, although the seat is a bit board-like over big distances.the only challenge now is finding a survivor in decent shape.