Yamaha is just three months away from unveiling a completely new YZF-R1 superbike that it hopes will have the same class-defining impact the original 1998 model had when it was launched.
The new bike retains the basic engine design of the current model, but it is understood to share almost nothing else with the current bike as it attempts to take on the likes of the BMW S1000RR and Aprilia RSV4 in terms of technology and performance.
MCN revealed spy pictures of a heavily-disguised prototype testing 18 months ago, wrapped in R6 bodywork but with a visibly different chassis and swingarm and being tested back-to-back with a BMW S1000RR.
Now we’ve had insider confirmation that the result of that development programme will be revealed before the end of the year. Our source said the R1 will be “shown at Intermot in Cologne and available in 2015.”
MCN has also heard from racing teams around the world who have been primed for a new bike. One team told MCN: “Our support budget has been heavily cut this season because there was no desire to develop parts for the bike any more from Japan as there is a new model coming this year for us to race next.”
A new bike can’t come soon enough. The current R1 has barely been altered since it was introduced nearly six years ago as a 2009 model. The new bike will keep the inline-four engine design of the existing bike, with a cross-plane crank to replicate the firing intervals of a V4 and provide better power delivery.
This ‘cross-plane’ thinking is central to Yamaha’s current strategy and, according to sources in Japan, the firm plans to emphasise it by branding the R1 engine as ‘CP4’ – the 270° parallel twin in the MT-07 is already called the CP2, while the MT-09’s 120° triple is the CP3. The R1 engine’s rebranding is backed up by the fact Yamaha has already trademarked the name ‘CP4’.
Yamaha has also recently gained the rights to several designations we believe are intended for use on the next R1. These include ‘YZF-R1M’ and ‘YZF-R1S’ – suggesting that multiple versions of the bike will be offered, in the same way as BMW offers the ‘HP4’ version of the S1000RR and Honda makes the Fireblade SP.
Along with the cross-plane engine, the ‘YZF-R1M’ name ties the bike more closely to the YZF-M1 MotoGP machine.
The technology used on the top-spec version of the R1 is likely to include electronically-adjustable suspension, with multiple modes tied in to the bike’s traction control, and ABS – something that’s notably absent from the existing bike but will become mandatory from the start of 2016.
Yamaha has also been developing its own dual-clutch, semi-automatic transmission for several years – similar in operation to Honda’s DCT system but different in its internal design.
Most of the firm’s patents for its system have shown it fitted to the R1, with a significant focus on light weight, compact design that doesn’t restrict lean angles – suggesting that it’s got plans to offer it as an option on its next-generation superbike.
Yamaha hasn’t officially commented on the rumours of the new R1 but the firm has dropped significant hints. At the recent YZF-R125 launch, European product planning boss Oliver Grill re-affirmed the firm’s commitment to the sportsbike market despite the fact it had shrunk, stating that Yamaha would continue to bring out new models in the sector in the future.