KILLARNEY RACEWAY, Cape Town – Any superbike launch day corresponds with a high level of anticipation and the recent R1 launch was no different. Although Yamaha has a comprehensive range of products on offer it's the top-of-the range superbike that represents the pinnacle of the company’s current level of technology and engineering prowess.

In the company of segment rivals like the new BMW S 1000 RR, Yamaha would have been under pressure to release something special, and it did.

Highlights
The 998 cc engine features titanium fracture-split connecting rods together with the signature Yamaha cross-plane crankshaft setup.
To lower overall weight magnesium has been adopted for both the wheels and subframe. There is also an aluminium fuel tank, a rarity on motorcycles. The result of these lightweight measures is a 6,8 kg reduction in overall mass.

The previous generation R1 will always be remembered for how wide it was. This has been addressed with the new model. Looking at the bike head on you instantly note a narrower design, made possible by the slimmer engine block.

The aerodynamic setup of the bike has also been improved by 8% compared to the old bike. This is visible everywhere. From the smooth (race-bike inspired) nose, to the hollow tail piece featuring small fins.

The electronic package is another significant highlight. The ABS braking system features a unified setup activating both the front and rear brake simultaneously. And no, it cannot be deactivated. Yamaha’s six-axis inertial measurement unit is connected to both gyro- and g-sensors to measure pitch, roll, yaw and acceleration in fore, aft, up and down, and left and right positions.

On-board a clear and colourful screen gives the rider access to Yamaha’s ride control system. Here settings for the traction-, slide-, lift-  and launch control systems can be selected. There are also four different throttle mappings to choose from.

On the track
The racetrack is without a doubt the best environment in which to get acquitted with a superbike. Fortunately Killarney Raceway was bone dry and Yamaha had tyres warmers fitted to the test units long before we headed out on the track.

While taking it easy during the first session I was immediately impressed by how much space you have as the rider, how easy it was to move around in the saddle and how well damped the ride was for such a serious machine.

Pushing a little harder, the combination of power and torque allows even a novice rider to enjoy the bike on track. Select second or third gear ahead of a chosen corner and the bike rewards with abundance on exit. Whether the clear digital screen is showing 9 000 or 11 000 r/min as you straighten up there's a guaranteed punch as you fire towards the next turn.

If you have not grown up with superbikes the electronic systems are the best assistance you could ask for. Based on how genetically gifted your family jewels are you will either hate or appreciate the fact that as you open the throttle you are very aware of the computers doggedly keeping the front wheel on the ground.

On the day I managed an (rather pathetic really) indicated 230 km/h down Killarney’s back straight. Racer David McFadden clocked a scary 294 km/h. The mind boggles...

Summary
With every new generation of superbike these machines grow faster and more capable. As such, experiences riders are able to immediately tap into this every increasing spectrum of options to extract the best of such a machine. Fortunately for mere mortals like myself electronic systems still afford less experienced riders the opportunity to grow accustomed to these upgrades over the course of a few days, weeks, or even months. Each level of "play" pealed off as you discover another feature or setting to explore.

One thing is for sure, the new R1 will keep you entertained for a very long time.

The R1M
The R1M is step up from the Yamaha R1. Your additional R100 000 (over the R1's R230 000 price tag) gains you several carbon-fibre parts, an Öhlins electronic racing suspension and a communication control unit (a data logging system that enables the rider to capture ride data and then download it via WiFi).

Visually, the R1M also has a clear-coated brushed aluminium fuel tank and a brushed aluminium swing arm.

Specifications*
Model: YZF R1
Engine type: 998 cm3, liquid-cooled inline 4 cylinder DOHC 16 valves
Bore x stroke: 79,0 x 50,9 mm
Compression ratio: 13.0:1
Power: 147 kW
Fuel delivery: Fuel Injection with YCC-T and YCC-I
Ignition: TCI: Transistor Controlled Ignition
Transmission: 6-speed multi-plate slipper clutch
Final drive: Chain
Suspension (f): 43 mm KYB® inverted fork; fully adjustable;
11,9 cm travel
Suspension (r): KYB® Single shock w/piggyback reservoir,
4-way adjustable; 11,9 cm travel
Brakes (f): Dual 320 mm hydraulic disc; 4-piston caliper, UBS ABS
Brakes (r): 220 mm disc; UBS ABS
Tyres (f): 120/70ZR17M/C
Tyres (r): 190/55ZR17M/C
L x W x H: 205,5 x 69 x 115 cm
Seat height: 85,6 cm
Ground clearance: 12,96 cm
Wheelbase: 140,46 cm
Rake (Caster Angle): 24°
Trail: 10,16 cm
Fuel capacity: 17 litres
Wet weight: 200 kg

Model: YZF R1M
Engine type: 998 cm3, liquid-cooled inline 4 cylinder DOHC 16 valves
Bore x stroke: 79,0 x 50,9 mm
Compression ratio: 13.0:1
Power: 147 kW
Fuel delivery: Fuel Injection with YCC-T and YCC-I
Ignition: TCI: Transistor Controlled Ignition
Transmission: 6-speed w/multi-plate slipper clutch
Final drive: Chain
Suspension (f): 43 mm Öhlins electronic suspension w/ inverted fork; fully adjustable; 11,9 cm travel
Suspension (r): Öhlins electronic suspension w/ single shock w/ piggyback reservoir, 4-way adjustable; 11,9 cm travel
Brakes (f): Dual 320 mm hydraulic disc; 4-piston caliper, UBS ABS
Brakes (r): 220 mm disc; UBS ABS
Tyres (f) 120/70ZR17M/C
Tyres (r): 200/55ZR17M/C
L x W x H: 205,5 x 69,0 x 115 cm
Seat height: 86 cm
Ground clearance: 12,96 cm
Wheelbase: 140,46 cm
Rake (Caster Angle): 24°
Trail: 10,16 cm
Fuel capacity: 17 litres
Wet weight: 201 kg

*According to Yamaha