Evolution of the Species – Yamaha YZF-M1 and YZ450F

yamaha-yzf-m1-yz450f001-003The Yamaha YZ450F and YZR-M1 motorcycles are the pinnacle of Yamaha’s engineering development in the quest for victory on and off road in the global Grand Prix Championships. Whilst the current machines are both developed under the same design philosophy it is rare to ever see them together. Yamaha Racing took this unique opportunity to photograph the thoroughbreds side by side.

The machines are testimony to Yamaha’s ‘family’ approach to motorcycle development with shared principles and philosophy in design producing very different machines from a single source. Cutting edge technical partners are also shared between the two motorcycle development paths, Akrapovic for example has proved to be the best possible performance partner in developing exhaust systems for both the YZR-M1 and the YZ450F. 

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Whilst the dirt and the tarmac require very different machines to be competitive Yamaha retains the same philosophy of development in both areas, exemplifying the company’s spirit of development in the quest to create not only Championship dominating machines but also innovation for the customers of the future.

The 2013 YZR-M1, the M1 standing for ‘Mission One’, is the latest incarnation of an incredible machine that first broke cover in 2002 as MotoGP made the move from 500cc bikes.

Yamaha’s design philosophy has continued to move forward and evolve at the cutting edge of design off-road, most notably with some serious ‘forward’ thinking. When the current engine design development reached its limits Yamaha stepped outside the box and made a bold move. A revolutionary design change saw rearward and backward facing cylinders move the mass centralization, bringing the heaviest part of the bike closer to the middle for flickability.

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The development doesn’t stop in Japan; Yamaha is very flexible in its approach to the advancement of the YZ off-road machines. A partnership with Michele Rinaldi in Italy started in 1992 has earned numerous victories and consistently class leading bikes. In 1995 the Yamaha Rinaldi Research and Development program (YRRD) was founded, developing race-winning parts for the then two-stroke machines. Working to maximise the regulations in the racing class that opened up different possibilities for development, Rinaldi were able to develop a completely new crankcase for the YZ450F, gaining valuable performance benefits at the track during the 2001 season.

The collaboration to develop race-winning machines delivered Yamaha the first ever four-stroke world title in 1999 with Andrea Bartolini and is further exemplified by Stefan Everts total domination over six seasons from 2001 to 2006, including four back to back YZ450FM titles. Everts has since been joined by David Philippaerts who stormed to Championship victory in 2008 on the YZ450F.

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Yamaha’s cutting edge design philosophy in racing remains very much focused on benefit not just on track but for future customers on the road. The OWP3 M1 engine developed for the 2004 MotoGP season featured the crossplane crankshaft for the first time. Valentino Rossi won the opening race with the bike at Welkom in South Africa, going on to win the title with a further eight victories. The MotoGP legend would cement the M1’s place in history with a further three premier class world titles. Current world champion Jorge Lorenzo would then add another two titles to this, giving Yamaha six MotoGP titles in the last ten years. Between them they helped Yamaha make history, taking the triple crown of rider, team and manufacturer titles for three consecutive years from 2008 to 2010.

The YZR-M1’s technology has filtered to Yamaha’s production machines and the YZF-R1 appeared in 2009 with the crossplane crankshaft technology. American rider Ben Spies took Yamaha’s first World Superbike Championship victory with the new R1 in the same year, crowning the development journey from MotoGP prototype in 2004 to production dominance in 2009.

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