Could this be the ultimate Yamaha R1?
The standard, off-the-peg ’07 Yamaha R1 is a phenomenal machine. It’s sheer speed and poise makes it more than you’ll ever need on the road, and on the track it’s just as mind-blowingly brilliant. But the performance of a production bike like this will always be tamed by having to run heavy bodywork, lights and indicators; a Euro-friendly exhaust which weighs a ton; durable, long-life tyres – the list goes on. That’s why a top Superstock spec bike like this Virgin Money-sponsored Rockforge Racing R1 is the purest of the breed.
What you’re allowed to change on a Superstock bike is very limited but what you’re left with is the R1 the engineers would have started with before they had to stick all the road gear on. Sticky Metzeler Ractec tyres, a noisy free-flowing Akrapovic exhaust, lightweight bodywork and a blue-printed engine has turned this R1 into a machine that consistently laps just a few seconds off the BSB boys with talented young rider Steve Mercer aboard.
For the Round 7 of the MRO Powerbike Championship on 21/22 July at the GP circuit at Brands Hatch, I for once left my trusty R1 long term test bike at home and got the opportunity to ride the Rockforge Racing Superstock machine instead. As the team were here anyway, they decided to field regular rider, Mercer and use the meeting for extra practice for the next National Superstock round.
The difference between this bike and mine is huge. Although both are more or less the same spec, mine is still predominantly a road bike and this is a finely fettled dedicated racing machine. Anything that doesn’t need to be on the Rockforge R1 for racing has been consigned to the bin and the team have ensured that every single little component works smoothly and precisely; my R1 feels ‘woolly’ and heavy by comparison.
As well as feeling lighter and smoother to ride the Rockforge R1’s engine revs with the kind of manic urgency that I’ve never felt on my bike and has enough extra power (I reckon a good 10bhp more) to run taller gearing than my bike can run. The grip of the Metzeler Racetecs (the control tyre for National Superstock) is incredible and comparable to the Dunlop slicks I normally run, although they do move around on their tread into and out of the corners compared to the solid feeling a slick gives you.
These very neutral, soft carcass Metzeler tyres let the team run the Ohlins shock and re-valved forks relatively soft and are so stable the bike doesn’t need any of its steering-damper. The stiff construction of my slicks and their very steep profile means the ride is a lot harsher, and the bike more unstable in a straight line.
With just one dry Friday practice session to get used to the bike and three dry qualifying laps on Saturday I managed to qualify on the front row of the grid in 4th place with Mercer sitting in pole. The grid was fuller than usual with 28 riders competing –many here from Superstock and others just out to sample the magnificent GP layout circuit which we only to get to use once a year.
Still learning the bike I managed a 6th in Saturday’s Superpole race and a 10th and 11th (after a 10 second jump start penalty) in Sunday’s two main races. Mercer ended up with two 2nds and a win, each time battling hard with Allan-Jon Ventner who was using this race as practice for next week’s World Superstock race.
This is without doubt the best and easiest to ride R1 I’ve ever ridden. Yes you could argue a full blown R1 superbike would be better but it’s a mile away from a standard machine and a thousand times harder to ride. Credit has to go Team Principle Rhys Boyd and his boys for creating such a beautifully turned out machine – and most importantly letting me race it for the weekend. The only thing is, now I’m spoiled…
My next round of the MRO Powerbike Championship is at Cadwell on 11/12th August.
Superpole Race: 6th
Race 1: 10th
Race 2: 11th
Championship position: 5th
Rockforge Racing (www.rockforgeracing.co.uk)
Steve Mercer (www.stevemercerracing.co.uk)
PJB Technical Services
Rookie, Mark and Ali.