The short but sweet life of the Yamaha R7

It didn't win any BSB races but I love it all the same

I was reunited with an old friend recently, my 1999 Virgin Yamaha R7 Superbike. By the end of 1998 I had won three straight BSB titles with the Yamaha YZF 750, when their main sponsor Cadbury’s pulled out leaving zero funds for a title defence. Wanting desperately to ride the new R7 and thinking a replacement backer would instantly get on board I turned down a quite a few offers including a juicy contract from Crescent Suzuki (Paul Denning always enjoys reminding me). By March of the following year I still had no ride when thankfully a certain Richard Branson stepped in to bail us out just one week before the first race at Brands hatch.

Yamaha only ever built 500 homologation specials to satisfy new World Superbike rules and I rate the ‘OWO2’ as the best 750cc Superbike ever. With its compact YZR 500 derived chassis and all new fuel injected engine, on paper it was a winner. Unfortunately it came with soft big end shells and engine mapping that had a mind of its own so life was frustrating early in the season. Ironically, Kawasaki parts fixed the crankshaft problem and Yamaha helped with the electronics, so by mid season the bike was competitive, however the Yamaha R7 never won a BSB race. Hizzy and I had some strong 2ndplaces with my best performance by far being the WSB round at Brands in 1999 when my rear tyre shredded with a podium position on the cards. Noriyuki Haga took his factory backed West R7 to much greater heights the following year with regular WSB victories as he battled throughout the season with Colin Edwards. And many would argue he would have taken the title had he not been banned for eating a Sinex or some other harmless product that contained Ephedrine.

Twelve years on a fully blown R6 Supersport machine would match R7 lap times although it would feel quite different to ride. Their racing weight is more or less the same, however, when it comes to performance, the R7 would still have more mid range but with a rev limit of 14000rpm. The R6 will carry on way past 16000rpm feeling more like a peaky two stroke.

Despite my lack of success with the Yamaha R7, when it was fully developed, I believe it was the best looking and best performing 750cc Superbike ever built. Which would you chose?

Join the conversation!

Let us know what you think, just sign up for a free account, leave a comment and get involved!
Register Now

Latest Reviews


Latest Videos