No, the Yamaha World Supersport...
No, the Yamaha World Supersport R6 doesn't use traction control (because the team feels it would compromise acceleration too much), but it does make use of a variable idle speed program that works with the slipper clutch to vary engine braking (adjustable via the green buttons), four different engine maps accessible through the red buttons, and the pit lane speed limiter (black button).
Crutchlow is pleased with the settings on the Yamaha, both electronic and chassis, leaving himself free to focus on delivering the results. "I think you can get too wound up about getting the last little detail right on the setting," he says. "I get something right at the start of the year, and it's very, very unlikely that I'll ever change it, I just leave it on the same position all the time, because I'm happy with it. And that's the same with the chassis; I've found a setup now that I'm happy with, so I never change anything with the bike. Just ride it!"
Still, you have to get to that base camp, and after that crucial development season in 2008, Zeelenberg's team settled on Ohlins suspension components. "We worked a lot over the winter with Ohlins, and we took good steps forward with the stability of the bike, especially," says Eschenbacher. The Yamaha's handling is agile but confidence-inspiring-it steers pretty fast into a bend without feeling nervous, and with the reduced 1380mm wheelbase, it's quite forgiving if you need to correct your line, or change it to avoid a slower rider, as on the track day when I rode the bike. But it also felt very predictable, with good feedback from the Pirelli tires helping in maintaining corner speed, and at my level I reckon this is still the best way to ride the bike. But I did notice a couple of corners, like exiting the infield complex, or the uphill chicane before the last turn, where the rear Pirelli was starting to slide under the punishment, as I fed in the power cranked over on the exit for the long run along the next straight. Taking Crutchlow's advice to heart, I lifted the Yamaha exiting the turn superbike-style and that certainly resolved any traction problems. A good tug on the handlebars also helped redress the front end push I'd been experiencing at those turns with the rear Öhlins compressing unduly thanks to the effects of my extra weight compared to the slimmer Mr. Crutchlow.
"This is the first Supersport R6 Yamaha that I've raced," says Crutchlow, winner of the 2006 British Supersport title on a CBR600RR.. "I'd always raced Hondas in Supersport before this, so I know how good the Honda is as a chassis and a package. Maybe the Yamaha engine is a little better at the top end, but for Yamaha to be so competitive against Honda this season has been good, because Honda's been the one to beat over the last nine years or so. We're stronger in some areas, maybe corner entry, and they're stronger sometimes coming out of the corner or mid-corner. But at the end of the day, a Supersport bike is not that hard to ride, but we're riding them right at the very limit; we can't go any faster than we're going, me, Eugene and the boys. That's what I mean when I say there's no point in changing the settings on the bike, because it's already going as fast as it'll go."
It's nice to be wise after the event, and after riding the predecessor of Crutchlow's Yamaha Europe R6 one year ago, I wrote that "one thing's for sure: after a season of development in 2008, the latest Yamaha R6 will be a serious contender for world honors next season." Well, thanks to riding skill and an innate ability to learn new circuits very fast-a skill he shares with the man he'll be replacing in the hot seat of the factory Yamaha R1 Superbike in 2010, Ben Spies-that's the way it's turned out for Britain's Crutchlow in his debut season on the world stage. Yamaha's been waiting for nine years to regain the World Supersport championship, and the Crutchlow R6 was the bike that did it for them.