VIRGIN YAMAHA is ditching its superbike R7s to run R1s in 2002
Team boss Rob McElnea’s decision has been influenced by his No1 rider James Haydon, who conveniently tested Suzuki’s GSX-R1000 a fortnight ago at Oulton Park.
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McElnea said: " James rode the Suzuki and was impressed by the power and handling of the 1000 compared with a superbike. It seems having a 1000cc four is the way to go. "
Haydon and McElnea flew to Geneva last week to see an endurance-spec R1 tested on a dyno and as soon they returned, the Virgin team started work preparing an R1 ready for testing at Almeria circuit in Spain next week (December 5-7).
McElnea added: " The R1 chassis is pretty similar to the R7 so many of the parts, including the forks and factory swingarm should slot straight in. We should get hold of a 2002 R1 before Christmas but we’ll have a prototype ready to test. "
With Suzuki already having switched to supersport-tuned 1000cc four-cylinder machinery and Kawasaki’s involvement with the series looking increasingly uncertain, Yamaha’s decision means that the only true world superbike-spec machinery on the grid next year will be Ducati V-twins.
McElnea may now persuade Haydon to stay with Yamaha and become a key figure in development of new fuel-injected R1 but still has several rides on offer.
It is not just the 26 year old’s talent that is in demand. He brings with him a personal sponsorship package believed to be worth around £500,000 from hi-fi giants Aiwa, and in the cash-strapped BSB paddock that puts him at the top of many teams shopping lists.
Suzuki boss Paul Denning says that he can’t wait for Haydon to make his mind up any longer. He said: " We’re going testing in Spain early next month so I need to announce my line-up soon. "