Yamaha’s OW-01 is one of the most evocative motorcycles ever built. It was first shown to a wide-eyed public at the Earls Court motorcycle show in October 1988 and went on to take racing by storm, winning hundreds of races at club level, BSB and WSB.
It gave Terry Rymer his first WSB win, Rob McElnea a BSB title, Foggy a TT lap record and four-times 500cc champ Eddie Lawson victory in the 1993 Daytona 200. Admittedly it didn’t enjoy quite as much success as the Honda RC30 on-track or in road racing, but the OW-01 was - and still is - decidedly special.
The price was a bit special too. Back in 1989 when the 749cc inline four-cylinder superbike was first produced, along with the first ever FZR600 and FZR1000 EXUP (Yamaha were busy that year), the OW-01 cost £12,700.
To give you an idea of just how much that was back then, the FZR1000 EXUP was £5899 and the incredible Honda RC30 was eight grand. With just 500 made and 198 sold in the UK between ’89 and ’91, it was more exclusive than the RC30. Just 88 OW-01s were registered for the road.
Back when it was winning everything at club level, I’d just started racing as a fresh-faced 19-year old on a Suzuki RGV250, then a Yamaha FZR600. It was rare to see an OW-01, let alone ones stripped of their beautiful white, red and blue bodywork and replaced with race fairings. Their presence in the paddock was very special and the fact that it was known by its factory code name rather than its model name (FZR750R) only added to the allure.
Being used to so little power on my race bikes, I could never get my head around how the OW-01s could wheelie down the straight at Lydden and Brands Hatch. It made those club racers heroes to me and I was in awe of winners like Ted Bunton, Graham Marchant and Jason Sear. Loctite Yamaha OW-01 racers Rymer and McElnea were simply gods in my eyes.
I’ve never even sat on an OW-01 in my life and never thought I’d ride actually get to ride one until MCN reader acquired the bike you see in the pictures, which is an ex-race machine converted back into a road bike. He agreed to make my dream come true.
I had waited 22 years for this day and it didn’t disappoint. The OW-01 looks as special now as it did back then.
Read the full story in this week’s MCN (21 December), on sale now.