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Old 21st August 2011, 12:54   #1
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Default Special bikes of the past - Part 1

I have been thinking of writing a series of articles on special bikes of the past and thought I would start with the homologation specials.
Here we go:

Special Bikes: Part 1: Homologation Specials

Several years ago, I visited Hattar Motorsports, north of San Francisco to show some Ducati parts that I had designed. My 6 year old son with Rossi like hair and his distinct #46 bumble bee jersey impressed the lady at the parts counter. She commented – I like your hair. It was definitely not directed towards me unless she was trying to be sarcastic.

But soon my attention was consumed by the distinctive “stare” of a Yamaha R7 OWO2 that invited me for a closer inspection. I studied this magnificent machine for a few minutes and a salesman walked over to me and said – you sure know these bikes – he was tickling my ego of course. The price tag of 25k USD was actually not too high for a bike of this caliber. New they sold for around 35k USD. I remembered Go-Show (Anthony Gobert) win on an R7 beating Nicky Hayden on the bigger RC51 at sears point during an AMA superbike event. Was it Goby’s exceptional throttle control? May be. But nevertheless the #16 blue R7 is what I recall screaming past the start-finish line leading #69 by a fraction of a second. Goby did disgrace the motorcycling community later on, but that would be a different discussion.

In an era where sub-400-pound 120HP sport bikes are a common place, my admiration for expensive and old homologation specials has not ceased one bit. This is somewhat ironic to the masses. I have tried to rationalize this seemingly visceral attraction with hard evidence to back up my scary obsession. Now, do my eyes and their cerebral connection discern rarity or is there something more? I would like to think the latter.

First and foremost is the sheer beauty of the Yamaha R7, Honda RC30, Kawasaki ZX7 RR and of course the Ducati 851/888 SP series. Even today, these bikes stand out from the crowd of crotch rockets produced by the very same manufacturers. Out of all these, despite being a big Ducati fan, I feel the R7 exemplified a true race-ready superbike. The 888 SP4 and the ultra-rare 955 SPA are nice, but in the looks department, they are almost identical to a road going model.

Yamaha sold 500 or so R7s [in 1999 and 2000 – the only years the R7 was produced] to the public with lights and everything. These bikes had the dreaded crankshaft failure issue that the factory would replace for free. I saw one at a Laguna Seca track day, but the owner was in the fast group so I could not see it in action while I was out on track. Its 20V Inline 4 motor and a 4 to 1 race exhaust system was a pleasure to my ears.

What made the R7 special was its race-readiness out-of-crate. You could bolt on the race exhaust/ECU supplied with the package, turn on the second bank of injectors that would take its power from 110 to 125 BHP. In full race trim, it was capable of pumping out in excess of 160HP but would incur significant investment. It was equipped with top-shelf Ohlins components all around and with track savvy knowledge, the bike could be dialed-in close to perfection. Throw in a sprocket, springs and slicks and you could go racing. The R7 inherited chassis geometry from its 500CC GP counterpart the YZR500 – remember glory years of Wayne Rainey on the YZR. The close-ratio tranny was a hall-mark of most of these homologation specials and R7 was no exception.

Contrasting this with the RC30 or the RC45, one would need to indulge in kit parts to make it race ready including Cams, Exhaust, Swing arm/Shock linkage and more.

R7’s own predecessor, the OWO1, had an uncanny semblance to its road-going brethren the FZR1000. But not the OWO2 – there was nothing in Yamaha’s line-up that looked anything like this

Most of these bikes are hand built by specialized race shops – and there you have it - iconic machines that have paved the way for evolution of superbikes.

Make no mistakes about it; none of these machines are likely to out run an R1 or an 1198. They are likely to be heavier as well. On finer points, they may not even have radial mount calipers that can be seen on a 2 year old R6. It is a perverse comparison. Moreover, it is highly desirable to retain the originality of these bikes in stock trim. Trying to extract the maximum out of them to match the latest run-of-the-mill sport bikes would be a farce. This is not being anal about stock trim but a sincere attempt at not trying to match bikes of different era. These bikes are impractical as hell for street riding unless you have access to traffic free roads with plenty of curves. But if you have the means to do it, all the power to you. Better yet, take it to the track where they belong.

Parts are hard to come by and are likely to be very expensive. Adorned with liberal use of exotic materials like titanium, magnesium and carbon fiber, consequences of pushing them to their limits will always be on the back of an owner’s mind. It is ironical since they are meant to be raced hard! Enthusiast forums are a valuable resource for self care – probably more resourceful than a dealer.

Now why would anyone want to own one of these? Beauty and engineering master piece
Until next time

-Krishna
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Last edited by ksanjee : 21st August 2011 at 13:00. Reason: formating..
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Old 22nd August 2011, 11:58   #2
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Default Re: Special bikes of the past - part 1

Krishna,
Should say a very neatly compiled write up, hopefully we get some more data around the bikes that you will mention. You will have me hooked onto this thread
Good Stuff keep em coming up please
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Old 22nd August 2011, 12:28   #3
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Default Re: Special bikes of the past - part 1

Wonderfull narration. You got me hooked, waiting for more.

Like any adrenaline junkie, I too want to buy a sports bike but the praticality of it in Bangalore is the question i am trying to find an answer for. Maybe, i will try to pacify myself with a baby Ninja.
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Old 22nd August 2011, 12:48   #4
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Default Re: Special bikes of the past - part 1

Awesome post.

I had seen a person on Usa2T have the Yamaha '99 trinity. R1, R6 and the R7 OWO2. Those bikes are just magnificient.
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Old 22nd August 2011, 13:22   #5
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Default Re: Special bikes of the past - part 1

Lovely crisp writeup Krishna. I have always loved reading up on bikes of bygone era, maybe because I spent over two years reading up on my first budget sportsbike. I'd google reviews everytime a bike I did not know much about came up for sale, and then scroll through BikePics to ensure the year of manafacture etc.
I have just added this one to my list of subscribed threads.
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Old 22nd August 2011, 14:44   #6
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Default Re: Special bikes of the past - part 1

Excellent thread Krishna! Already voted 5 stars for its content specially for late starters like me into the Superbiking scene. A one stop shop to catch with up all that I have missed.

Thanks again!
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Old 22nd August 2011, 19:01   #7
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Default Re: Special bikes of the past - part 1

Thanks guys. A little off-topic but will go ahead anyway
[mods can delete if needed]
The reason, I like these bikes is that you don’t have to be super rich to own and ride one. So you are likely to see them owned by people who appreciate them for what they are. The same cannot be said of 4 wheels unfortunately. I once saw Michele Alboreto’s F1 Ferrari at Symbolic in La Jolla California advertised for a cool 650k USD – I reckon it needed another 100k to put it back to running condition – this was before his tragic accident in Lausitzring. I was at the first Indy F1 race [modern era] where some rich guys had showed up with their priced possessions to the track for some exhibition laps. I have a scaled model of the Ferrari 312 T2 piloted by Niki Lauda in the 70s. There was an old man who owned the real one and I was watching within 10 meters of the car when the mechanics prepared the machine. They fired it up after which the owner got in and with a lot of help was buckled into the safety harness. With great difficulty he got into gear and the car just leaped out and almost took out a bunch of people. We had to scatter for safety or my ankle would have been shaved off by the front wing! Indy is a fast circuit and this guy could not get past 2nd gear and it was painful to watch such a glorious machine in such incapable hands. There were others like Derek Bell and Mario Andretti who rocked. I had a similar experience at Monterey historic races when they honored Ferrari and there were F1 cars from different era. I was so ecstatic to see a couple of V12s – specifically the #27 originally piloted by Jean Alesi [not the Gilles Villeneuve car] - but again with incapable hands. Andrea Bertolini did fast laps [during the same event] with Schumachers’ championship winning Ferrari and he got down to 1.09 lap times in 12 laps!! Long standing circuit record was a 1.07.xx set in a Champ car [by Helio Castroneves] which was broken by a Toyota F1 car during the later years [may have been Ricardo Zonta – with a 106.xx]

However, I only wished Andrea drove Alesi’s car – just to see what kind of lap times was possible and to hear it in full tilt [like Alesi used to drive.

I totally understand these cars are very hard to drive. But if you have the means, get some lessons goddamn it or have a qualified journalist drive it. Hey but it is their money, their car..! You can see I am so jealous since I cannot afford one

I was curious to see what kind of times Kenny Roberts did on his old Yamaha GP machine at Laguna Seca a few weeks back [but I guess they did not time him and he probably was not pushing it]

Krishna

Last edited by ksanjee : 22nd August 2011 at 19:03.
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Old 22nd August 2011, 22:10   #8
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Default Re: Special bikes of the past - part 1

Krishna,
Can see the pain being depicted through your words with misadventure of the old man on the ferrari. Am i lucky not to have seen it first hand. True end of the day no matter how passionate you are its the money that counts. Would you also post in some photos of the misadventure?
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Old 23rd August 2011, 19:16   #9
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Default Re: Special bikes of the past - part 1

I will try and find some pictures. It was not shot with a digital camera - but age old stuff! I know I have the pics from symbolic.

I will also post more details on all the bikes mentioned as a part of the homologation special. Will take some time.

Yes indeed for BLR roads, ninja 250 is more than sufficient.

Krishna
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