Driving report Yamaha R7-Superbike
Last year, Noriyuki Haga drove himself into the hearts of Yamaha fans on inferior material. Now his new tool is here – the R7. The key to success?
And braked again too early. At least ten meters are still in there. The head knows exactly, and yet the right hand does not want to obey.
Don’t rush, there’s enough time to get used to the exclusive saucer. To get used to the Michelin slicks, the Öhlins chassis and, above all, to the snappy six-piston brake system from Nissin. The standard four-piston calipers, known from the R1 and R6 models, were not used at this racetrack presentation. Because despite the huge 320 brake discs, the standard system can be expected to lose its effectiveness under such harsh conditions.
Even if you are enthusiastic about the handiness of this machine after the first few laps, it won’t work all by itself. Exiting the tight bends, of which there are some on the Grand Prix circuit in Jerez, Spain, it is important, on the one hand, to keep the rising nose of the vehicle on the ground by actively shifting your weight forward and, on the other, to keep the unsettling pendulum movements underneath when accelerating on the fast straights Bring control.
The engine reacts surprisingly good-naturedly. Because with all the energy that the R7 engine, refined with cement parts, converts into propulsion, the power appears to be easily controllable over a fairly wide speed range at all times. After all, according to Yamaha, around 163 lively horses should tear on the chain. The fact that the four-cylinder only transmits fine, barely noticeable vibrations to the footrests and the low-mounted handlebar stubs has a reassuring effect. After a short, getting used to jerk when applying the gas, the tachometer needle swings evenly from 8000 rpm, but definitely up to the 14000 mark, before the limiter comes to an abrupt end. In the final racing trim, however, thanks to the light connecting rods and valves made of sinfully expensive titanium, 1500 revolutions are certainly still possible without necessarily provoking an engine collapse.
Similar reserves lie dormant in the chassis. If the test motorcycle appears to be agile and handy like a series 600 at first, it soon becomes clear that it needs significantly more guidance in order to stay on the desired track. The feedback that is so important for the driver is a little missing. What is going on between the asphalt and the tires, do I still have reserves, and if so, how much? Questions that the R7 does not clearly answer. A feeling of security or even cockiness does not want to arise during the entire test drive, which lasted a good fifty laps. The engine revs up again and again due to insufficient tire grip when accelerating out of the tight corners, and the hindquarters suddenly break out.
But here, too, Yamaha offers a remedy. As standard, so to speak. Finally, the steering head can be made steeper by 0.5 or even 1.0 degrees by means of exchangeable, eccentric bearing inserts, and the height of the rocker axis can be changed twice. This means that the handling, stability and balance of this sensitive diva can be seriously influenced. Finding the right set-up is, however, a task that even the factory drivers Haga and Guareschi have not yet finally solved to their satisfaction, if one correctly interprets the slight deficit in the pre-season tests. But it is well known that good things take time, even if there is little of it in racing.
Surgical interventions of this kind are of course not cheap. Although the price for the basic kit is a friendly 4990 marks (head gasket, 24-liter airbox, spark plugs, clutch plate spring, wiring harness, accelerator grip, fuel pump and programming unit), if you want to make the said chassis changes, you have to invest again for the eccentric. As well as for radiators, silencers, gear wheels, rear wheel mounts and much more. Exact prices will shortly be available directly from Yamaha Germany. However, one thing is already clear: the R7 definitely offers enough options for a sensible investment.
So there’s nothing to just sit on it and win. Even the most consistent series sports machine of the modern era will not be enough to achieve national success. The healthy basis, however, offers the best conditions for exploiting the true potential of this high-tech racer. Even if not with the level of perfection that factory pilots like Haga or Guareschi do.
Superbike World Championship preview
Yamaha’s cult figure Noriyuki Haga as well as his new team mate Vittoriano Guareschi are obviously well equipped with the brand new factory R7 to intervene massively in the permanent duel between Ducati and Honda at the top of the Superbike World Championship. In Misano, during the last test drives before the machines were shipped to Kyalami, South Africa, for the season opener on March 28, the Japanese was always within striking distance of the Ducati factory driver duo, who, however, had another pre-season test session in the order Troy Corser ahead of defending champion Carl Fogarty The Castrol-Honda works team skipped the Misano tests, but with the unchanged driver pairing Aaron Slight / Colin Edwards, they think they have the best chances in the battle with the Red Brigades for the Superbike crown. The Honda RC 45 is entering its final year, the homologation for the Superbike World Championship is running out. Nevertheless, the V4 engine is still the benchmark in terms of performance and acceleration. Completely reorganized, however, Suzuki goes into the Superbike World Championship year 1999. The Belgian-Italian Supersport 600 World Cup winning team Corona-Alstare also takes over factory appearance in the Superbike World Championship. And finally the current injection version of the Suzuki GSX-R 750 will be used this season. As the number one driver alongside the Japanese attacker Katsuaki Fujiwara, the Italian Pierfrancesco Chili, previously the great tragic hero of the Ducati-Tifosi, was hired. With the new crew, Chili wants to build on the Suzuki successes at the 1998 season finale in Sugo, Japan. The biggest innovation in the Kawasaki factory team under the leadership of Harald Eckl is the signing of Spanish attacker Gregorio Lavilla as a teammate of regular driver Akira Yanagawa. The ZX-7RR has only been carefully developed and will be the last remaining superbike with a carburettor engine for the coming season. But team boss Eckl sees no disadvantage in this. And also in the tests before the season, the Kawa riders gave promising ideas. A brand new rider in the superbike world is Aprilia with its formidable two-cylinder RSV mille and the Australian Peter Goddard as riders. The Venetians, like only the giants Honda and Yamaha in all World Championship categories of the Road World Championship, see 1999 as a development year in which they want to show and refine their potential, followed by the major attack on the enemy brothers from Bologna and the 2000 Japanese nemesis to launch Honda. Dates 1999: 28. March Kyalami / South Africa, April 18 Phillip Island / Australia, May 2 Donington Park / England, May 16 Albacete / Spain, May 30 Monza / Italy, June 13 Nürburgring, June 27 Misano / Italy, July 11 Laguna Seca / USA, August 1st Brands Hatch / England, August 29th A1-Ring / Austria, September 5th Assen / Netherlands, September 12th Hockenheim, October 10th Sugo / Japan.
Superbike technology Yamaha R7
The fact that an R7 does not fall under the category of “ordinary” is ensured by the proud purchase price of 49,990 marks. Exactly 500 units of this beautiful machine have rolled off the assembly line in Japan so far, and that’s enough. Because the R7 is not intended to populate the country roads of the world, but to reap sporting laurels and win the Superbike World Championship. To this end, Kunihiko Miwa, project manager and father of the entire R family, put an unparalleled uncompromising bike on its wheels. Because contrary to the external similarities to its sisters R1 and R6, the R7 is a completely independent development. The matt black frame is based heavily on the layout of the current 500 GP bike and is supposed to exceed the rigidity of the R1 chassis by 100 percent in the front area. The long box arm, welded from aluminum profiles, is similarly stiff, and has increased its stability by 80 percent compared to the R1 arm. Eccentric bearing inserts for the steering head and swing arm mounts, in conjunction with the umpteen adjustable spring elements from Öhlins, open up a multitude of tuning options for the pilot. It goes without saying that the tank and cladding are fastened with quick-release fasteners. The opening for a second tank valve for use in the World Endurance Championship is also already there, which is a real challenge inside the engine. Short-shirted forged pistons, four lightweight titanium connecting rods (260 grams) and 20 titanium valves reduce the moving masses and thus increase the speed stability. With a stroke of 48 millimeters, the R7 is on par with the Suzuki GSX-R 750 and 3.2 millimeters above the Kawasaki ZX 7R. In order to keep the overall length of the unit short, the gear shafts lie on top of each other as with the R1. The cylinders are integrated into the upper motor housing. The R7 already has a closely spaced six-speed gearbox as standard, and the fuel is supplied by an injection system with two injection nozzles per cylinder. The special gag: Via a small box that is included in the kit, the electronics can be switched from road to racing mode with a few push of a button. This automatically activates an existing second injection nozzle. In this mode, in turn, both the injection quantity in the lower and in the upper speed range can be influenced depending on the respective throttle valve position. Sounds great, but it’s not that easy, after all, this rather complicated chapter comprises almost 20 pages in the kit manual. The electronic speedometer unit is the key. The needle shows the individual programming steps during the adjustment work. The factory-specified 106 HP for the production motorcycle should not be a concern. They are based on the French legal basis for homologation. In view of the predetermined purpose of the R7, people across Europe simply lowered themselves to this limit for reasons of cost. According to Yamaha, the kit with engine and injection parts, silencer and cooler should be good for at least 163 hp.
Interview with works driver Vittoriano Guareschi
Mr. Guareschi, you come from the 600 class. This is your first season on a superbike. What’s different now? The tires. It takes a lot of effort to push the limits of these slicks. The extra power doesn’t cause me any problems at all. I just have to change my driving style, because the superbike has to turn tighter radii in order to accelerate again earlier. The enormous cornering speed of the 600s doesn’t do much here. How do you get along with your Japanese team-mate Haga? Great, he’s a really easygoing guy. A little crazy maybe, but very helpful. We set up the machines together during training, and he helps me with that too. And this week we’re going snowboarding together. What are your goals for the first year? First, you have to learn from my experienced opponents in the first three or four races. I also have to get to know my bike better. In the final bill, there should be a place in the top ten, and maybe this year it will be enough for the podium.
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