Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the R1!

Held! Yamaha YZF-R owners meet-up

On June 23rd of last year there was a “YZF-R owners meet-up” held at Sportsland SUGO racing circuit in Miyagi prefecture, Japan. However, the topic at this years’s event revolved very much around marking the 20th anniversary of the flagship model in the series, the YZF-R1. More than 700 bikes were at the event, in comparison to last year’s 500 bikes.    

Persons involved in YZF-R1 development played an active part

There were all kinds of things going on at this year’s meet-up such as goods exhibited by parts makers, charity auctions, an opportunity to test ride a  YZF-R1 or R6, and the chance to see Katsuyuki Nakasuga take the YZR-M1 out for a blast, but the biggest topic was the 20th anniversary of the YZF-R1. There was an original fork with the YZF logo presented to those people that had applied beforehand, and a specially made birthday cake was cut as the turning point was celebrated for the supersports bike that represents Yamaha.

The venue was packed with YZF series bikes! Being the 20th anniversary it was no surprise to see that most of the participants came with R1 bikes.

20th anniversary YZF-R1 birthday cake. First generation red & white model, and blue current shape model in “edible R1” marzipan.

There were are a large number of stalls with anything from parts, supplies and synthetics, all the way to food.

There was a demo by the fastest man in Japan, Yamaha factory racer Katsuyuki Nakasuga on the 2018 YZR-M1. The bike looks quite subtle in those carbon made fairings.

Nakasuga was surrounded by fans who wanted to shake hands and grab a signature. After all, it’s because the fastest at riding an R1 is this guy.

The 20th anniversary Suzuka machine clad in the first generation colours that Nakasuga loves the most was also exhibited.

What also got R1 owners watering at the mouth was the gathering of seven project leaders who each played their part in developing the first 1998 model through to the current 2018 model.

From the left, Miwa Kunihiko (1998 / 2000 model PL), Keisuke Hirano (current model PL), Hideki Fujiwara (2015 model PL), Yuichi Takeda (2009 Japan spec model PL), Toyoshi Nishida (2007/2009 model PL), Makoto Shimamoto (2006 model PL), and Miwa Koike (2002 / 2004 model). This was certainly the full line up of the “R1 gods”.

Not only were seven developers present to talk about the story from behind the scenes at the time of development, there were also great numbers of Yamaha engineers that participated, in what really characterised the event. The developers of the whole YZF-R series were wearing blue T-shirts that stood out noticeably, and could be found dotted around the venue in various locations ready to chat about the YZF-R with owners. As for the number of those that participated, well you can take a look at the picture below and count for yourselves!

The developers surround the project leaders. The travel costs from Iwata to Sugo for all these guys are impressive alone! 

All of the R1 models were lined up along with secret stories (The way in which everyone was looking at the board was as though they could eat into it!) from the development stages being exhibited. There are less chances than you might expect to be able to see all generations lined up.

The 2007 R1 with variable intake funnels was exhibited alongside the “phantom red funnels” that were applied by Hideki Fujiwara, who was in charge of engine development at the time. We are told that there is absolutely no relation to “the red funnel being a man’s romance!” within its performance.

There was also an exibition where you could compare the minor amount of gyroscopic effect of the magnesium wheels from the current R1, against conventional aluminium wheels. Talented writer Numao was also astonished!

Where we touched by the atmosphere Yamaha created?

The developers all served the role of hosting the meet-up. For the finale, there was a parade lap of Sportsland SUGO racing circuit led by the aforementioned “seven R1 gods”, along with the developers seeing off participants by waving to them as they went off on their way home.

The seven R1 gods waiting before they head off to lead the parade. It appears that this was the first time all seven have gathered together simultaneously.

Being someone who used to own a first generation R1, Miwa is an absolute god in my eyes. Here he is perched on an R1M, enquiring about how it operates to current R1 development rider Makoto Tokinaga.

The backdrop here shows the pit lane at SUGO packed with YZF-R participants awaiting the parade lap.

This might well just be my own personal impression, but the majority of the Yamaha engineers that represent the YZF-R series are “friendly and warm hearted”, and it was great fun talking to them all. Despite being professional bike makers, I strongly felt their level of affection and “love for bikes”, as opposed to not feeling much enthusiasm at all. I guess that’s probably the spirit of “Yamaha Motor Company”.

Although the story here has digressed a touch, I would like to say how the event is targeted at all generations of the YZF lineage, not to mention the R1, R6 and R25 YZF-R models. Of course bikes outside the YZF-R series are fine to participate, and there are no entrance fees. In the case that you are a Yamaha owner then it would be well worth checking out this event (of course non Yamaha owners can participate too).

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本誌編集長。雑誌は生き残りタイアップ全盛期だというのに、ひとり次期型ネタを嗅ぎまわって反感を買う現代のスクープ魔王。
■1972年生まれ
■愛車:BMW R100GS(1988)

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