Can you believe that the groundbreaking Yamaha R1 Superbike was introduced almost 25 years ago? The R1 was the brainchild of Kunihiko Miwa, who oversaw three development teams and the YZF-R1, YZF-R7 and YZF-R6 were all under his umbrella – which isn’t a bad claim to fame. But it was the R1 that broke new ground. Packed with the latest technology in both the chassis and engine department, the R1 outperformed its main rival – the Honda CBR900RR Fireblade.
While the R1’s five-valve head was nothing new, Miwa repositioned the gearbox mainshaft above rather than inline with the crankshaft, creating the world’s first ‘vertically stacked gearbox’. This revolutionary design allowed the R1’s motor to be not only light, but also short, meaning the chassis team could use a longer swingarm for greater traction while retaining a sportsbike wheelbase. When it arrived in 1998 the R1 not only blew the competition out of the water with its 150bhp, but it also ran rings around the porky Fireblade thanks to a 177kg dry weight and razor-sharp geometry.
At the time, production racing machines were either 750cc fours or 1000cc twins, meaning that the R1 was developed purely as a road bike – leaving the YZF750SP as the basis of their superbike racer.
The R1 was designed holistically to combine big horsepower with an agile chassis and singlehandedly redefined the sportsbike class. First generation examples (especially in the bold red and white paint scheme) have become appreciating classics.
issued: Monday, September 19, 2022
updated: Monday, September 19, 2022
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