Graves WORKS adjustable rearsets allow perfect foot placement, with a full titanium Graves exhaust system poking out below. Braking rear disc on near side, with Vortex CAT 5-520 sprocket and D.I.D. ERV3 racing O-ring chain on the other.
Even with the strict AMA rules, there’s still room for electronic trickery in the Daytona SportBike class. The grey toggle switch is for the engine braking maps, while the red toggle switch is the master power switch (the one on the right bar is the engine kill switch). Yellow button is the pit-lane speed limiter.
Ohlins TTX shock has valving made to Graves specifications, with Graves’ own spring fitted. The Graves springs are lighter and offer half-steps in spring rates for optimum tuning capability.
Graves-spec Öhlins internals (different springs/valving than standard Öhlins) reside in the stock Yamaha R6 fork, while Braking wave-type discs and pads handle stopping duties. Dunlop’s latest USA-made D211GP-A tires provide maximum grip.
If you were following AMA Pro Roadracing in 2012-specifically the Daytona SportBike class for middleweight bikes-it was hard not to notice a particular Yamaha consistently at the front in the final half of the season. After fracturing his kneecap in three places-ouch-in a scooter accident at home following his impressive third-place finish in the season-opening Daytona 200 (forcing him out of three of the next four races on the AMA schedule), Cameron Beaubier mounted an impressive comeback that resulted in the northern Californian winning seven out of the final 11 races on the calendar. Unfortunately those missed races proved vital in the title chase, keeping Beaubier out of the championship picture despite his dominant close to the season.
With its incredibly tight restrictions on engine modifications, the Daytona SportBike class has been heralded as one of the more level playing fields in racing. It's supposedly a far cry from AMA 600 Supersport days of yesteryear when factory-supported teams did battle on bikes that were said to be light years from what a privateer could build. Thus, when Yamaha called and asked if we'd be interested in riding Beaubier's Yamaha Extended Service Graves Motorsports R6 at the newly constructed NOLA Motorsports Park just outside of New Orleans, Louisiana, my bags were packed before I had hung up the phone.
In order to keep an iron-fisted control over the competition, the rules for the AMA Pro Roadracing Daytona SportBike class are very strict. Internal engine modifications are basically limited to compression, cam timing, and fueling/ignition; everything else must remain in the completely stock form as homologated with AMA Pro Racing. No more cylinder head porting, special cams, valve jobs, etc. Spec fuel means that engine tuning opportunities revolving around secret petrol brews are out of the question.
As expected with such a tight rulebook, Y.E.S. Graves Yamaha team manager Rick Williams was decidedly tight-lipped about what engine modifications were made to the R6s ridden by Beaubier and teammate Tommy Hayden. "You change the compression ratio with the Y.E.C. head gaskets and that sort of thing, find the sweet spot, it's more tuning than anything," said Williams about the main power producer in the modification list. The rest goes into cam timing-"We use the Graves Motorsports camshaft timing kit, the same one we sell"-velocity stacks on the throttle bodies (another Graves component) and engine fueling/ignition via the Marelli SRT 16-bit ECU. Needless to say there is surely more handiwork performed inside the engine, but the Graves crew isn't talking. Exhaust is a Grave Motorsports full titanium system.
Clutch modifications are allowed as long as they are homologated products, so the Y.E.S. team fitted Beaubier's R6 with his preferred STM slipper clutch unit. The slip ratio of the STM clutch is highly adjustable, allowing tailoring to a particular rider's style. Graves WORKS rearsets, handlebars, and case covers ensure crash survival and positive control. Race bodywork is by longtime maker Sharkskinz, with Zero Gravity (a company with an even longer racing history) making the windscreen.
Suspension is handled by Öhlins components that are made to Graves' specifications, with a TTX shock and fork cartridge kit (because AMA rules specify that the stock outer fork assemblies must be used) utilizing Graves-spec damping rates. Graves has its own springs manufactured that are lighter and less progressive than the stock Öhlins springs. The Graves springs are also made in half-step rates that allow finer adjustment than the Swedish springs, and the difference in spring length is minimal between spring rates. A Graves rear shock linkage changes the leverage ratio to a more optimum curve for racing, and a Graves top shock mount allows easy ride height adjustability.
Speaking of ride height adjustability, the problem with changing one aspect of the chassis is that it can affect many others, causing unwanted side effects. In order to counter this, Y.E.S. Graves suspension technician Kyle Guglielmetti showed me his "Dynamic Chassis Program" that basically takes the guesswork out of what a particular change will affect and where. Any alteration to ride height, spring rate, preload, damping, oil level, linkage-even gearing change (anti-squat characteristics) or tires (circumference)-is fed into the DCP spreadsheet, which instantly displays on a graph where the bike's dynamic center of gravity (as well as a few other important handling parameters) is located. The program can give you options on what should be changed elsewhere on the bike to keep the bike's dynamic center of gravity in the same spot in order to help maintain consistent handling, or choices to allow you to change it to a different location.
Brake rotors and pads front and rear are from Italian manufacturer Braking, with Vortex CAT 5-520 sprockets running a D.I.D. ERV3 racing O-ring chain. Internally, a Speedcell lithium battery helps provide electrical power with less weight, while Yamalube full synthetic 15W-30 motor oil provide power through light weight of a different kind. And finally, Dunlop's D211GP-A Sportmax DOT race rubber-the spec tire of the AMA Daytona SportBike class-put that power to the ground.
Despite the tight rules on modifications in the Daytona SportBike class, there's still a bit of electronic trickery available on the Y.E.S. Graves Yamaha R6. A toggle switch on the left clip-on bar offers two levels of engine braking, with another button for the pit-lane speed limiter. An electric quickshifter is also allowed in the class.
Rolling out of the NOLA circuit's pit lane for my first exploratory laps (learning a track and racebike at the same timenot the ideal scenario), I was surprised at how hospitable Beaubier's R6 was when not ridden in anger. Any expectations of an abrupt, snarling engine or concrete-stiff suspension were quickly dispelled in the first few turns; you could be forgiven for thinking that you were aboard a nicely set-up street-going sportbike if you were blindfolded. In fact, as my pace increased throughout the day, I found that the Y.E.S. Graves Yamaha never lost that friendly character.
Granted, this is a race-tuned 600cc four-cylinder engine we're riding, so keeping the revs up in the five-figure zone means you can't get lazy. You're rewarded for your work though, with an engine that is in another galaxy compared to the stock R6. Yes, there's plenty of screaming top-end power-although the team is loathe to quote horsepower numbers, my butt dyno put the Y.E.S. Graves R6 in the 125-130 rear-wheel horsepower range, with the engine making strong power all the way to 15,000 rpm with a nice overrev-but even more impressive is the surprisingly strong midrange. Letting the revs drop to 9000 rpm is no longer a death sentence to any sort of drive off the corner, and the smooth yet crisp throttle response means you can start those drives earlier and more aggressively.
Credit here goes to the Marelli SRT standalone ECU. As a point of reference, I also got the chance to spin some laps on Garrett Gerloff's Supersport-spec Y.E.S. Graves R6, a class that requires the stock ECU to be used (with a homologated piggyback fueling device). Engine regulations between the two classes are the same, however, so while the overall power felt basically the same, the way it came on when you twisted the throttle was definitely rougher and more abrupt.
Suspension action from the Graves-spec Öhlins suspension was superb, and despite the Y.E.S. crew's offerings of adjustments, I never saw the need (of course, much of that could be attributed to my outweighing Beaubier by some 30-odd pounds and going a lot slower). The NOLA track's new surface meant that there weren't many bumps to be found, but the few I was able to locate didn't upset the Y.E.S. Graves R6 in the least.
Even more impressive, though, was how balanced the bike felt in all aspects of cornering. I've ridden many racebikes that, while offering a major advantage in one part of the corner, often gave up something for that edge in another area of handling performance. The Y.E.S. Graves R6 always felt planted, whether charging deep into a corner on the brakes, transitioning toward max lean with tons of corner speed, or accelerating hard off the corner. There was never a point where weight transfer felt as if it was going to overpower the suspension and threaten to upset stability. Even when the hard-compound rear Dunlop D211GP-A tire started to wear a bit toward the end of the day and spin up off the corners (the new track surface at NOLA is very abrasive on tires), the slides were never abrupt, and the bike always felt nice and balanced. When I commented on this, Guglielmetti then showed me the DCP software, which surely plays a major role in the Y.E.S. Graves R6's excellent handling.
Also impressive was the action of the STM slipper clutch and engine braking program built into the Marelli SRT ECU. I preferred the lighter of the two settings (more slip, less engine back-torque), and there was never any hint of rear wheel chatter or lockup except when getting a little too hasty with downshifting into first gear. At all other times, you could literally bang downshifts with impunity, and the engine would simply match revs to road speed as soon as you got back on the throttle, allowing super-deep corner entries without drama.
A good thing that the slipper clutch worked so well, as stopping power from the Braking discs and pads puts the stock components to shame. Response, feel, and modulation were all excellent, letting you ramp up to the limit of tire adhesion at will.
The Total Package
The phrase "makes you feel like a hero" is starting to become an overused cliché, but that description fits Cameron Beaubier's Y.E.S. Graves R6 perfectly. You literally feel like you can do no wrong on it, with a supremely balanced combination of agility and power that lets you put it anywhere on the racetrack to get from point A to point B in the quickest time possible. And if you have the financial means and are really serious about your racing, you can have the exact same machine for a base package price of $25,070 (with various options such as the chassis kit and Marelli ECU bumping the sticker up to just shy of $40,000).
If you think that's a lot of dosh to be doling out for a 600, you'd be right. But the fact that nearly all the Yamaha R6s you see dicing in the lead group of an AMA Daytona SportBike race are prepped and supported by Graves Motorsports should tell you something.
The Y.E.S. Graves R6 always felt planted, whether charging deep into a corner on the brakes, transitioning toward max lean with tons of corner speed, or accelerating hard off the corner
Roseville, California's Cameron Beaubier has a wealth of experience for only 19 years of age, even though he started riding motorcycles at age four. He followed in his father's motocross footsteps until he was 12 years old, switching to supermoto at the behest of his father after the elder Beaubier decided that he didn't want his son exposed to the same injuries he suffered in racing. "I kinda clicked with the pavement, and ever since then I've loved it," recalls the younger Beaubier, leading to a stint with the renowned Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup in 2007. The Californian showed his potential by winning the German round, and eventually finishing the seven-race series in sixth place.
The following year Beaubier competed in the highly competitive Spanish CEV GP125 national championship as part of his enrollment in the Red Bull MotoGP Academy. Although an injury forced him to miss several races, he showed enough promise to be given the opportunity to race in the 125cc World Championship in 2009 with the Red Bull KTM team. Living in Europe and traveling the world while racing at GP-caliber racetracks was "an awesome experience. I struggled a little bit; I was only 16, living on my own in Europe without my family, racing against the best 125 riders in the world. But I learned a lot that year."
Beaubier returned to the States in 2010, contesting the AMA Supersport championship with the Rockwell Yamaha team, where he won one race and finished the season in fourth spot. In 2011, Beaubier moved up to the Daytona SportBike class with a low budget effort, eventually getting support from the Riders Discount/Jake Holden Racing Yamaha team, and caught the eye of Yamaha Racing brass with six top five finishes in 13 starts, eventually finishing the season in sixth spot.
Beaubier's hard-charging finish to the 2012 season brings high hopes for the future. "I'm looking forward to 2013, getting some good training in and some good results," he enthused as he gears up for another season in Daytona SportBike with the Y.E.S. Graves Yamaha team (although we learned at press time that his kneecap was damaged again in a crash at the New Jersey AMA round, requiring more rehab during the winter). Y.E.S. Graves team owner Chuck Graves sees great things in Beaubier's future: "Cameron's one of those kids that comes along once in a great while with a ton of talent and potential. We've got high hopes for him."