2008 Yamaha YZF-R6 - First Ride

Fly-By-Wire Throttle,Variable-Length Intake Tracts And Other Electronic Trickery Make The '08 R6 The Most Potent Yet

By Aaron Frank, Photography by Yamaha, Fran Kuhn

2008 Yamaha YZF-R6It was dj vu, like the man said, all over again. For the second November in a row the U.S. press corps disembarked at Laguna Seca Raceway to make laps aboard the latest Yamaha sportbike. Last year we sampled the redone YZF-R1, a fearsome machine that left us crying for mommy after just a few laps. This year we returned to ride the baby-brother YZF-R6, and the experience couldn't have been more different.

The overwhelming R1 mocked us at every corner, daring us to open the throttle to the stop and then terrifying us whenever we screwed up the courage to try. The R6, on the other hand, proved an excellent and unflappable companion. Made even fizzier for 2008 with the YCC-I variable-length intake tracts and other trickle-down R1 technology, plus an all-new chassis that lets you further exploit its surgical-sharp steering precision, this latest R6 seemed a perfect match for the undulating Central California circuit. You expect dj vu to inspire boredom in the "haven't-we-been-herebefore?" sense. The shrieking 600 inspires anything but, and instead provided one of the most viscerally stimulating track experiences yet.

Skeptics question the validity of tracktesting motorcycles, and wonder what useful information can be gleaned. In the case of the R6, a track test tells us everything we need to know. The 600 has come to represent the thin edge of the wedge with regard to track-specific hardware, and Yamaha is unapologetic about its latest middleweight being even more trackbiased than before.

The technical presentation began with a cascade of demographic data. Supersport sales are up 52 percent in the past six years, with R6 sales growing by 44 percent. More to the immediate point, there's been a 42 percent increase in the amount of racetrack miles ridden by the average supersport owner over the past two years, with an 86 percent increase among R6 owners. When Yamaha made the '06 R6 into a more track-focused machine, some worried less all-around capability might hurt sales. This data suggests the exact opposite. So when it came time for Platform Manager Kouchi Amano to design the next-generation R6, the brief called for it to be more aggressive in every respect.

Though it looks essentially identical to the '07 version (the bodywork is only slightly revised), the '08 is actually an all-new motorcycle with a lighter, more agile chassis, a stronger, more sophisticated engine, stiffer, track-specific suspension and a more aggressive riding position. Don't like the sound of that? The kinder, gentler $8299 YZF-R6S is still in the '08 lineup for the non-apexobsessed. The '08 R6 is built to rule the racetrack, and if you're the sort of aggressive, experienced track-day rider Yamaha identified in its design brief, you'll likely be pleased with the changes.

Last year's R6 offered the highest-revving engine in its class (even after accounting for the overly optimistic tach), and also the most potent top-end rush, at the expense of midrange power. Soft on power anywhere below 10,000 rpm, the '07 R6 required a quick left foot and a concentrated effort to keep the engine on the boil. Thus, pumping up midrange power was Job 1 for '08. Engine Development Manager Nobuharu Takahashi called for a number of changes to increase torque output, including higher-compression pistons, a largerdiameter header crossover pipe and, most substantially, grafting on the YCC-I chip-controlled intake system that utilizes longer, 66mm intake funnels to maximize low- and midrange torque production and shorter, 26mm funnels for an even more fierce top-end hit.

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