Watch as we test out a fully GYTR modified 2012 Yamaha YZF-R1 at a special Yamaha owner appreciation weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Read the full story in the 2012 Yamaha Laguna Seca Ride Day article.
Fostering brand loyalty is recipe for success in any business, particularly the motorcycle business. Yamaha has hit on a fun solution to keeping its riders faithful to the Tuning Fork brand – free trackdays. We couldn’t believe it either, until the good folks at Yamaha Motor Corp extended an invite to ride with its customers at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Oh, and they wanted us to ride the famed circuit on a new R1 kitted out with its GYTR racing parts… Sign us up!
Yamaha’s Customer Appreciation Track Day marks its second year -the annual event hosted by Zoom Zoom Track Days. Customers who have purchased a new Yamaha sportbike in the past two years (2011 and 2012) are entitled to not one, but TWO free trackdays on the famed home of the USGP, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Riders who own a 2010 or older Yamaha sportbike are eligible on a first-come-first-served basis for only $100 a day. The price beats the regular cost of a Laguna Seca track day by a long shot, normally priced between $300-350, but riders have to be quick as the event sells out within 24 hours. Eligible models for the trackdays include the YZF-R1, YZF-R6, R6S, FZ1, FZ8, FZ6, and older Yamaha sportbike models. Garages, the same ones used by MotoGP teams at the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix, are available to rent for $125 a day and include full power. Garage renters are able to share with whoever they choose.
Yamaha treated us to the luxury of ripping its GYTR prepped 2012 R1 Superbike around Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca at the Yamaha Customer Appreciation Track Day event.
Northern California track day provider Zoom Zoom hosts the event just like any other track day. The only difference is this occasion is only available to Yamaha riders, and when you get to the track that is all you’ll find. Not one single model from any other manufacturer is allowed to turn a tire on the 2.2-mile course. Each day features fun giveaways from Yamaha, including a Yamaha Generator, Leo Vince products and free trackdays. An added bonus for the Yamaha Customer Appreciation event is Laguna Seca suspending its strict 92 dB sound restriction to run a 105-dB sound regulation. This super-rare occurrence allows for aftermarket pipes to be run without issue.
It was cool to see Yamaha owners come together for a good time on such an entertaining and challenging racing circuit. There were R1’s and R6’s by the truckload and one guy even had a TZ250 painted up with Yamaha Factory Racing livery. The different experience levels of riders included beginner riders out for a good time to a few serious racers putting in fast laps, changing tires, and adjusting suspension in order to try and better their own personal lap times.
Last year we missed the occasion and Yamaha wasn’t going to let that happen again, but inviting us out to this year’s festivities wasn’t the only luxury. We opted to bring out our 2012 50th Anniversary R1 project bike, but the guys at Yamaha had a different plan. They wanted us to test their GYTR prepared R1 Superbike, built by Yamaha’s Product Line Manager and old school road racing bad-ass Jay Tanner. We couldn’t have been more amped. Not only were we getting VIP treatment to ride the prestigious Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, but to do so on a brand new race-ready Superbike would be ultimate fun.
The bike is built with parts straight out of Yamaha’s aftermarket GYTR Catalog. In the suspension department a set of Ohlins 30mm cartridges replace the stock fork internals while an Ohlins TTX shock handles business in the rear. As far as accessories go, the bike includes a slew of Graves Motorsports parts including a performance enhancing exhaust for lighter weight and added power. Graves rearsets, clip-ons, frame sliders were added for rider comfort and adjustability. A GYTR High Flow air filter replaced the stock unit to allow the bike to breathe with ease. For engine tuning purposes a Dynojet Power Commander was paired with Auto Tune and a quick-shifter to go along with the YEC kit ECU. The entire bike is wrapped with Sharkskinz fiberglass dripping in C5 red and white paint to match the stock special edition livery.
Before riding the GYTR bike we opted to get warmed up on our stock R1 to help get a feel for the differences between the two. After a sight lap it was on. Full tilt race mode was engaged but the stock set up moves around a lot due to the street tuned stock
(Top) The Graves dual exhaust paired with the crossplane crank engine brought some major heat to the table, initially giving off the same tone as a MotoGP bike. (Middle) For engine tuning purposes a Dynojet Power Commander was paired with Auto Tune and a quick-shifter to go along with the YEC kit ECU. (Bottom) A GPR stabilizer is used to help tame the front end at high speeds.
suspension. Although it may not seem like a huge deal, the soft stock seat takes away from rear end feedback from the rear tire and shock, but is ideal for street use. The result, unexpected pumping of the shock and spinning of the rear tire when pushing the bike hard. The fork is also on the soft side when attempting to ride at race speeds. In mid corner it was common for the front end to push, especially in Laguna’s Turn 2 as well as Rainey Curve.
While we awaited the next “A” group session new rubber was mounted up on the GYTR-built bike. Tires of choice; fresh Dunlop AMA spec slicks, the same tires Factory Graves Yamaha mount Josh Hayes used to grab his third AMA Superbike Championship this year.
As the “A” session came to, we zipped up the leathers and buckled the helmet. We were ready to do this. Throwing a leg over the GYTR bike we already noticed major differences compared to our stock machine. Up front the clip-ons are much wider while the rearsets sat much higher. As for the seat, a foam pad is used rather than a standard soft cushy set up. The rigid set up of the pad allows for a better feel of feedback from the rear shock and back tire, ultimately helping with setup. The Ohlins race suspension tuned by InHouse is much stiffer than stock, finishing off the rigid race bike feel.
A flip of a toggle and push of the start button and the superbike is brought to life. The Graves dual exhaust paired with the crossplane crank engine brought some major heat to the table, initially giving off the same tone as a MotoGP bike.
Although the bikes engine is virtually the same as our streetbike with the addition of a thinner head gasket, within the first three laps of riding we noted the power difference and delivery. The Power Commander and kit ECU step up the R1’s game, enabling it to hit harder on the bottom and run out longer on top compared to our street bike. Although power was all fine and dandy, after just a few laps we could already spot a fluke in set up. The front end had a major chatter problem mid corner while the rear tire spun like nobody’s business, but we kept riding to further assess the issue.
We rationalized that the bike was simply unbalanced. The front end was too soft while the rear was too stiff. We stiffened up the fork with preload and compression adjustments and softened up the rear. This got rid of the chatter in the front end. With a couple more adjustments to the shock we got it to squat more and grab traction on corner exit. From there it was smooth sailing and good times for the rest of the trip.
At the end of the weekend we came to the realization of two things.The first is Yamaha’s GYTR 2012 R1 is one badass machine. Professionally built, the bike runs, works, and looks amazing. The second realization is Yamaha cares about its customers. Opportunities like free Laguna Seca trackdays could have an affect on someone when purchasing a new motorcycle. It’s a unique way to attract new consumers and keep current ones. We had a blast and are already counting down the days to next year’s event.
Thankfully we were able to eliminate front end chatter problems through Rainey Curve with some suspension adjustments.