First ride: Tony Cairoli's MX1-winning Yamaha YZ450F

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What does it take to come out on top in world motocross these days? MCN sampled Tony Cairoli’s MX1-winning Yamaha YZ450F to find out.

This isn’t just any Yamaha YZ450F motocrosser, it’s the Red Bull De Carli Yamaha YZ450F just ridden by Italian Tony Cairoli to his third world championship.

But how much different is it from the standard production machine? And how much of Cairoli’s success is down to the bike? We decided to find out.

The handling is incredible – it feels different straight away – you sit ‘in it’ rather than ‘on it’ because of the cut down seat and shorter rear shock body – and although it starts first time and doesn’t sound too dissimilar to the production YZ450F, on track there’s a distinctive bark to it.

The power delivery isn’t as hard hitting as I’d anticipated, so you’re able to carry good speed through turns, but on the exits, when you’re well into the bike’s midrange, it starts to excel – in both performance and handling – and the quicker you go the better it gets.

It turns really well; the lower seat, shorter shock body and suspension in general make for a good all-round combination. At the end of straights, coming into braking bumps, the overall balance between front and rear suspension is plain to see. You feel that you could do anything with this bike.

The interesting thing is that when Tony Cairoli moved from the YZ250F (he was MX2 world champ in 2005 and 2007) to the bigger YZ450F machine, he wanted to changed the 450’s whole ergonomics package to something more like the 250. The standard 450 is a much taller bike, and would not have suited his aggressive style of riding which requires him to be ‘in’ the bike, not just down the straights but also through the turns as well.

To achieve that, Cairoli has had the full support of the Red Bull De Carli Yamaha Team and while the bike can take some credit for his success, the pilot still has to get on with the business of winning.

Virtually all-new with Athena cylinder and head and Nikasil plating. The piston is the same size as standard, other internals are all standard but with modified cams. Exhaust is by Leo Vince, with carbon-fibre end cap. G.E.T ignition has two settings (Start and Race mode). Five-speed gearbox is standard and ratios are unchanged. The carburettor is slightly larger. Aluminium clutch covers (Solva) are specially designed for more effective clutch use.

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Paul Malin

By Paul Malin