The R6 is reborn with a competition-bred 'no compromise' attitude. But is all this race-ready technology a step too far for the road?
Click to read: Yamaha YZF-R6 owners reviews, Yamaha YZF-R6 specs and to see the Yamaha YZF-R6 image gallery.
IT'S ONLY ABOUT four or five laps into the first session at the Qatar GP circuit and I'm starting to learn my way around. Which is fairly hard since, being stuck in the middle of a desert, it has fewer features than Razzle magazine. But I'm getting there.
Despite having so few laps under my belt I've already formed some impressions of the R6. It's surprisingly comfortable.
Even my six-foot plus frame seems to fit into the bike, rather than be perched on top of it with my nuts resting on the top yoke like the CBR600RR, and it looks stunning. But the engine seems weak.
Thinking back to the technical briefing the night before, I remember Yamaha's engineers talking about the motor making 127bhp, 133bhp including the effect of the forced air box. But it certainly doesn't feel this much. It's making a load of noise, but the rush of power I'd expect to accompany the din isn't there. Then I glance at the rev counter. It's only showing 10,000rpm... and there's 7500 more to go. Time to abandon any concept of mechanical sympathy.
And this is the key to the new R6. Don't trouble yourself with any thought of what the pistons are actually doing inside the new oversquare engine. Simply give it the berries. Don't feel guilty. If the engine is making a noise like a banshee having its nipples tweaked particularly roughly then it's somewhere near the power.
Yamaha keeps using the expression 'no compromise' with the R6 (and it's still called the R6, not the R6R, as was rumoured). Yamaha wants it to win races, loads of them, so it has allowed its engineers to design the bike with race wins in mind as well as full access to MotoGP technology. Once this was done, the stylists were allowed to add the finishing touches.
A quick glance over the stripped bike in the pitlane shows up many of the clever competition-bred engineering details. The frame is a combination of cast and pressed aluminium sections and runs in a straight line from the headstock to the swingarm pivot point for maximum stiffness. Just like Rossi's. The inverted forks and shock are adjustable for everything including high and low speed compression damping, a first for a mass-produced 600 (and again, just like Rossi's). The engine has Yamaha's new Yamaha Chip Controlled Throttle (YCC-T). Just like Rossi's. It comes with radial brakes and a radial master cylinder, slipper clutch, stacked gearbox, shift light, lap timer, just like... well, you get the idea.
As a piece of technological ingenuity, the R6 is far more advanced than any of the current 1000cc sports bikes. And it costs £1500 less than they do.
It also works very well. Like I said, forget anything about giving the engine an easy ride, rev the hell out of the R6 and that motor is strong. I'm not convinced about the 127bhp claim - at the spark plug, maybe, but I reckon that when we get it on the dyno it's likely to show up around the 108bhp mark. That's more than the current crop of 600s, and possibly on equal terms with the 636cc ZX-6R at the very top end (which is where the R6 will undoubtedly spend most of its life).
Once the engine in the 11-15,500rpm area, the new close ratio gearbox gives the impression that it's making more power because it seems like a very short space of time between ratios up to fifth gear. On the long start/finish straight, the R6 rips through to fifth and it's showing around 150mph before I stick it in sixth, and then the acceleration seems to stop. It feels like Yamaha has treated the sixth gear as a road-focused motorway overdrive gear because it doesn't really want to pull in it. On track this isn't really a problem, because once the power trails off at about 16,500rpm there's still 1000rpm of over-run to dive into. On the road it should help economy, I suppose.
Click here to read the Yamaha R6 review verdict
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