“Our customers have been asking questions: What has happened to Yamaha? Why are they not making exciting models?” says Kunihiko Miwa, Yamaha’s Senior Executive Officer. For a Japanese manufacturer to stand in front of the world at the Cologne Motorcycle Show and say such a statement is a remarkable moment, but it demonstrates that as well as recognizing that they are in trouble, Yamaha are about to do something about it…
Having made this announcement, Miwa pulled the covers off what he described as the future direction of Yamaha’s motorcycles — the P3 inline triple concept model (see senior editor Andrew Trevitt’s Stop Watch column, “The Yamaha Three-Cylinder Crossplane Engine”). While it may not look like much, this modern art style “visual interpretation” of the concept speaks volumes about the future direction of Yamaha’s superbikes.
“I want to create a new concept using big horsepower and torque which customers can use without it feeling too dangerous thanks to the electronics,” explained Miwa. “The bike will be easy to corner as the computers will help the rider in the same way the M1’s electronics help Jorge Lorenzo to win races. The computers will sense throttle position and angle through gyroscopes and this helps the rider concentrate on where they are going, which will be very useful to normal customers and not just Jorge. It is safer but will also make the bike very exciting to ride — this is important, the bike must be fun.”
So we are talking MotoGP level traction control that senses lean angle as well, something that is lacking on the current R1 but is certainly sitting on a shelf in Yamaha R&D ready to go. So why not just update the inline four engine?
“We were thinking about the new engine concept three or four years ago. The cross-plane concept makes a very good feeling engine with good power characteristic but with an inline four it is a very wide motor. The R1 engine is very wide, too wide, and we considered a twin but the triple was the best solution using a cross-plane crank design.”
Having decided on the triple for the larger capacity bike, did Miwa test the Triumph?
“Yes, we tested the Triumph, of course. We built a new engine ourselves with a larger bore and shorter stroke, around 675cc but different to the Triumph. It was very nice, lightweight and with low inertia that allowed it to rev very quickly. That will be an engine for a model in the future.”
So will the new superbike race in the WSB championship?
“To get big horsepower a three cylinder engine would need some kind of assistance with the rules — a regulation change if we were using that kind of engine. It would need to be over 1000cc, but that will be revealed in a little while.”
Which leads to the obvious question — when?
“Next year at this show you will already have seen the finished bike…” Miwa confirms.
Having confirmed that Yamaha are not only building a triple superbike, but also a supersport contender, where does this leave the inline four R-series of models? Yamaha built the cross-plane crank R1 in an effort to separate themselves from the rest of the Japanese manufacturers, so there is no reason at all why they should stay loyal to the inline four when it comes to premium sportbikes — the triple would give them the unique selling point they are looking for. For cheaper naked bikes there is a case for continuing to use the four cylinder, however as Triumph have proved, a triple makes perfect sense in a wide range of bikes. Does this mark a new era in Yamaha?