In this day and age of electronic rider aids invading motorcycle roadracing, AMA American SuperBike Champion Josh Hayes' words rang in my ears as I was getting ready to take my first laps on the same Yamaha R1 superbike that took him to the 2010 title. "We pretty much turned most everything off," revealed Hayes about which systems at his disposal on the Graves Yamaha superbike he used during last season. "This year even more so."
With racing pundits decrying the domination of traction control and other rider aid systems in racing, it's interesting to note that the motorcycle that took the AMA Superbike title was essentially electronic assistance-free. That's right; no traction control, no launch control - the only rider aid was the skill of the pilot aboard the bike. Hayes' consistent winning speed over the course of the AMA season demonstrated that there's something to be said for going back to basics.
Far More Than A Glorified Superstock Bike
The tightened regulations for AMA Pro Racing's American SuperBike class have given many the impression that the category is now nothing more than a glorified Superstock class. With the rules requiring stock crank, rods, and pistons in the engine, in addition to the stock basic frame, swingarm, 17-inch wheels and stock fork externals, it's easy to think that there's not a whole lot more performance to be had in the American SuperBike class. But a closer look at the Graves Motorsports Yamaha R1 superbike reveals there's quite a few more modifications than meets the eye.
Although the stock cylinder head must be used, porting and combustion chamber work is allowed, and while the camshaft lift must be the same as stock, duration and timing can be changed. All of these areas are where a good portion of the additional power ("Everyone [in AMA superbike] is around the 200-horsepower window," said Jim Roach, Hayes' Graves Motorsports Yamaha crew chief) is made. The EFI throttle bodies and airbox are stock units as per the AMA rules.
The short and stubby-looking...
The short and stubby-looking mufflers on the Graves titanium race exhaust system aren't some sort of trick power-enhancing feature. They were basically done to cut weight, as the R1 began the 2010 season "significantly" over the class minimum weight limit.
Although Hayes doesn't bother...
Although Hayes doesn't bother with all the electronic aids yet, they're there if he needs them. The buttons can be configured for any task, but currently the red and green buttons select a different engine braking program, the grey switch toggles between two spark maps, the blue button is to engage the pitlane speed limiter, and the yellow button turns off all the systems in case of failure. The knob above the switchgear is for front brake lever freeplay.
The Öhlins TTX25 rear shock...
The Öhlins TTX25 rear shock works through this trick adjustable linkage that can be selected for 0/10/15 percent rising rate, in addition to ride height adjustment.
The Graves Motorsports titanium full exhaust system sports carbon/titanium muffler cans that are much shorter than the standard units; is this some sort of special design for power? "We did it to cut weight," revealed Tom Halverson, Yamaha Road Racing Team manager. "Last year (2009), we were significantly over the weight limit, so this year we tried to cut as much weight as possible." Showing just how important cutting even small amounts of weight is in the competitive arena of AMA racing, Halverson revealed that "it was a ton of little things added up, including a smaller battery," that resulted in a 14-pound weight loss by the end of the 2010 season. And the 2011 version that Hayes was testing during my ride on his 2010 superbike is "already quite a bit lighter," said Halverson. "We'll start out the 2011 season right at the [370-pound] weight limit, which will be a huge advantage this time around."
AMA rules specify that only the internals of the stock fork can be modified, so Hayes' R1 utilizes Öhlins TTX398 damping cartridges up front, with an Öhlins TTX25 shock out back. The fork is held by a set of Graves rake/trail-adjustable triple clamps and steering stem, while the shock works through an adjustable shock linkage that allows 0/10/15 percent rising rate settings, as well as ride height.
Subtle modifications abound on Hayes' R1 superbike. One addition that came about during the course of the 2010 season was bracing welded to the top of the steering head area on the main frame spars. "We did that because Josh wanted a little more stability when trail-braking," said Halverson; "It definitely helped out a bit, made the bike just a bit more precise," concurred Hayes. Another clever modification is the reshaped fuel tank by Gmeiner Racing Parts in Germany that provides better comfort for the rider's stomach area and arms when hanging off.