Yamaha totally revamped the 2012 WR450F with a new frame, suspension and fuel injection. We raced it in a GNCC race for the 2012 Yamaha WR450F First Ride and flogged it in the Arizona desert during the 2012 450 Enduro Shootout. On both occasions the handling impressed us on this latest iteration of Yamaha’s off-road enduro machine. So much so we decided to hold onto the WR, and it has been one of the most ridden machines in the MotoUSA stable.
My results at the River Ranch GNCC were a disappointment thanks to a run-in with a tree that mangled my shoulder. A DNF just wasn’t going to cut it, so I decided that I needed to race the WR to redeem my washed-up racer soul. Back in my faster days I used to enjoy competing in races put on by the Motorcycle Racing Association of Nevada. The unique thing about these races is they are held at night, in the summer just outside of Las Vegas. What a fun way to race test the WR again with some desert specific parts. I gave our Arizona desert ace, Michael Martin, a call and had him convinced in less than 20 seconds to be my teammate for the Bushwackers M/C Searchlight Nugget Casino Night Race. With that I got to work getting the big blue racer ready for an assault on the vast darkness of a Nevada summer night.
If you are going to haul ass across the desert after dark, you had better be able to see where you are going! The stock headlight on the WR can get you home when you stay out on the trails a little to long, but you have to slow your roll as the reach and spread is only good for a mellow pace. A quick call to Baja Designs and the Dual-LaPaz 8-inch HID Racelights were on the way. This $875 lighting kit features a HID Spot and a HID floodlight, a half-inch chromoly steel frame, rubber
Baja Designs gave us a set of Dual-LaPaz 8″ HID Racing Lights for our project, making it possible to go fast after dark.
mounted fork mounts, rock guards and a wiring harness. It takes longer to remove the stock headlight and relocating the speedo unit than it does to mount the lights and frame, run the harness to the battery and connect the two to each other. No need to rewind the stator on the WR, but Baja Designs has an easy to use chart to find out if your particular bike needs anything in addition to the standard kit. In just 30 minutes we had an artificial sun hanging over the front fender.
Steering stabilizers are pretty standard issue for desert racers, but with the extra weight of the Baja Designs kit on the front-end it was mandatory. ProMoto Billet supplied us with a Fastway System 5 Steering Stabilizer. The System 5 has five separate adjustments to fine-tune the steering damping. Of course, there are the basic high- and low-speed adjustments that can be changed on the fly, but in addition there are three more circuits that make a huge difference in the feel and handling. While the high and low speed circuits control the movement from the centerline left or right, the Return to Center adjustment controls the resistance returning to the center from the left or right, resulting in better ability to hold a line. Then there is the Corner Angle circuit that controls the transition from the center damping stage and the corner damping. It’s adjustable in four positions on the left and right. Lastly, the Corner Damping Level gives control on how much resistance is felt while turning.
It may seem like a nightmare to set-up and adjust, but following the included set-up guide in the shop and 20 minutes of testing had the unit dialed in perfectly. That 20 minutes also included adjusting the suspension to work in the desert. Riders must have suspension set first before finalizing the steering stabilizer settings; otherwise they will be chasing their tail.
Two Brothers Racing fitted the very first slip-on exhaust they had available for the 2012 WR450F to our desert sled along with a prototype Juice Box fuel controller. TBR tuned the WR for an increase in mid-range and top-end power. Unfortunately, the
A Fastway System 5 Steering Stabilizer kept things under control while a Two Brothers Racing Exhaust increased the power.
MotoUSA dyno caught a nasty virus and crashed hard during our testing, so we weren’t able to pull the numbers in comparison to the stock pipe and fueling. In our next update we will have those all-important dyno numbers for you.
Now that we had the handling, power and control handled it was time to extend the range of the WR. IMS stepped up with a 3-gallon fuel tank equipped with a dry-break receiver for fast refuels. Fit and finish was excellent and installation a snap. The best part of the IMS tank was the additional capacity without changing the profile of the seat/tank/shroud area. The translucent white plastic also makes monitoring the fuel level easy with just a quick glance.
Seat Concepts installed a new gripper seat cover and foam to our stock Yamaha seat base to keep our butts happy hour after hour. The seat cover is a high quality gripper material along the sides and top with meticulous stitching. We were able to have them turn the seat around quickly since they are located in Southern California, but if time is an issue order the cover and foam and install them yourself following instruction videos on YouTube.
To finish the desert prep, Dunlop hooked us up with D739 rear tires and Geomax MX51 fronts equipped with heavier tubes to fight flats. We then installed a No Toil air filter to combat the dust. Beefing up crash protection we added Cycra handguards, a GYTR Aluminum Skid Plate and a GYTR Sharkfin rear brake rotor protector. With that, we were ready to go racing!
Right off the start, Michael grabbed a top-three position in the Expert Open class as the the pack exited the Searchlight motocross course. Each lap was 10 miles, and we would have to complete 12 laps before 1 a.m. to finish on the lead lap. Roughly 41 minutes later Michael handed the WR off to me after two laps completed. I left the pits in eighth overall. Right out of
All the parts we added to our 2012 Yamaha WR450F Project bike worked without fail even after a huge crash.
the pits it was wide open over rolling whooped out trails leading to rocky sand washes. I just couldn’t believe how bright the Baja Designs La-Paz HID lights were! I could see so far down the trail that I could ride just as fast as I can when the sun is out. The spot light illuminated the center of the trail perfectly while the flood had enough of a spread to see around the bend.
A quick turn to the right on the high-speed adjuster and the Fastway Stabilizer got just the right feel for the rocky washes that make up a large chunk of the course. Headshake and deflection was nonexistent, and the only handling issue was with the front pushing a bit in the sandy corners thanks to the extra weight of the lights. Forty-two minutes later I handed the bike back to Michael after picking up one position.
As the night wore on, Michael and I both got faster with each lap, and worked into fifth place overall. Then disaster struck on Lap 9. My teammate came up on a lapper on an ATV (for the second time) in a slot canyon that gave no room to pass. He revved the WR’s motor to let the rider in front to know he was behind and in a hurry. This only upset our fellow racer and as Michael finally made a pass, the ATV-mounted yahoo rammed his front wheel into the WR’s footpeg and swing arm. A 50 mph-plus cartwheel followed. The end result was a bent light frame that had the lights pointing at the stars and a twisted front-end. Our night was ruined but not over, the same couldn’t be said for the ATV. His lights were snapped off from rolling on its lid. Both riders were ok, so Michael had a few choice words with the Honda ATV racer before getting back on the course. Impressively the lights still functioned after such a hard crash.
In the pits we lost a ton of time fixing the lights, twisted front-end and handlebar mounts and watched our hopes of a trophy slip away. In the end, we finished 18th overall and down a lap. Our project 2012 Yamaha WR450F ran like a champ and put us in the running for a top-five finish. Every part we put on the Yamaha worked flawlessly, even after being smashed in a crash. Bad luck and worse decisions from other racers knocked us down, but not out. We finished and that is an improvement over my previous GNCC DNF.
Our Project WR450F got us pumped on racing again and we have big plans for the future installments of our project. For the next stage we are going to strip the WR down and turn it into a motocross racer. That’s right, we’ve decided that this might be the only bike we need in our garage and are going to put that theory to the test.