Our friends at Fast Bikes teamed up with Yamaha and Michael Rutter to build two trick race bikes for testing at the TT. Here’s the story so far.

When Fast Bikes was offered a Yamaha R7 for his 2023 endurance test, the answer was simple. The R7 is a sassy little guy with a big smile, and it’s affordable, so it’s very important these days. It’s also a bike with a lot of room for mods, and that’s where I put the ‘tick’ again. Discussions then began over the next few months as to who should be the stewards, with each making their case, but finally the latest regulations for the upcoming TT and Northwest 200 were announced. They confirmed that a number of modifications could be made to the R7 and Aprilia RS660 to make them competitive in the Supertwin class, which has been dominated by the ultra-expensive Paton in recent years.

I made a quick phone call to Michael Rutter. His last Piston Power TT win was in the 2017 Supertwin class, and in the 2022 Supertwin TT he finished fifth, 12 seconds away from the podium. He’s in his 50s, but it’s still hard to get on the podium in Northwest 200 races, TT races, especially Supertwins, so the offer was a natural choice. The conversation went something like this…

Me: “Fancy racing a Yamaha R7 on the roads this year? We’ll throw the kitchen sink at the bike.”

Rutter: “Yes, but can we get two bikes? We’ve just signed another rider.”

So, that’s it, Fast Biks is teaming up with Bathams Racing, Michael Rutter and the up-and-coming Craig Neve to tune, modify and test our long-term R7 to be one of, if not the fastest and best examples of one out there. On the Yamaha, the plan is to have a good go at the Northwest 200 and Isle of Man TT races, with the aim of getting the old man back on the podium once again.

Because time is short, and there are two brand-new bikes to build to a new set of regulations, we’re teaming up with MSS Performance to do the initial build of the bikes. It just makes sense. The R7 is a new bike which has only just been raced in America for one season, so ‘know-how’ is limited across the board, which means we need as much experience in the room as possible, and we’ll need to involve as many brainy people as we can.

The first job is to fine toothcomb the regulations to identify exactly what we can and what we can’t do to the bike. The good news is the list of what we can do is long, very long. We can tune the cylinder head; use lighter valves and pistons; change the compression; change the exhaust; change the con-rods; and change the cam for one which allows adjustable timing and different profiles. We can change the gearbox, bore the throttle bodies, and the crankshaft can be changed or modified so long as it is not lighter than the standard crank. The ECU has to stay the same but can be flashed or have a secondary fuel/ignition module fitted, and the rev limit can be raised to 11,000rpm. We can change the injectors, modify, remove or change the bell-mouths and also replace or modify the airbox. The clutch can also be changed along with the radiator and oil cooler, which is probably good, as the target power is 100bhp, which is a whopping 25-ish bhp increase over standard. And that is just the engine.

The fuel tank can be – and will need to be – increased to 20 litres’ capacity, which is a seven-litre increase. Wheels can be replaced, and their diameter and width are free; brake discs and calipers can be changed, as can their master cylinders. The rear suspension and its linkage can be changed; the forks can be changed or modified; and the triple clamps can be replaced. Curiously, the rear swingarm can be replaced with one from another model by the same manufacturer so long as the original attachment to the frame and rear suspension remain the same, which in the case of the R7, because the rear shock is attached to the engine, rules out anything like an R6 swingarm. Finally, the other notable thing is the use of slick tyres is permitted, which, assuming we hit the 150kg weight limit and 100bhp power target, should make the R7 a real hoot to ride, as well as a bit of a weapon.

When you lay out all the things you can and will need to do to the bike in order to make it competitive, as well as the regular stuff like replacing the bodywork, brackets, front and rear subframes, levers and lever guards, handlebars, rearsets, switchgear, etc., which you need to do to any bike if you want to race it, it dawns on you just how massive a project this is. So, a plan needs to be made and an order of things to be done established, so that no one supplier is left standing around waiting. For example, as tempting as it is to get the bike, pull it apart and take the engine out so the guys at MSS can get stuck into tuning it, the bike needs to go to K-Tech first while it’s still complete. This is because the rear shock is attached the back of the R7’s engine, meaning they can’t get their measurements if there’s no engine in the bike, so it’s K-Tech who get their hands on our R7 first, then straight from there to MSS’s Wansford workshop to be stripped and 3D scanned so the fuel tank fabricator can do his thing using the measurements obtained while the engine goes off to get the cylinder head tuned.

Meanwhile, some trick Nova gearboxes have already been ordered as they have a long lead time, but they will be essential. The standard gearbox will struggle to take the 35% increase in power, and it has gear ratios in the lower gears that are too low for racing, but just right for making the R7 feel a bit more zippy on the road. The Nova gearboxes will have different ratios more suited to racing and not road riding… in other words the lower gears will be taller. Also, they are laid out so that neutral is below (above if a race-shift pattern) first gear, so it’s impossible to hit a false neutral due to neutral not existing between any gears. One day, all gearboxes will be N, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th instead of 1st, N, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th; it’s just better and makes more sense.

Likewise, Suter clutches have been ordered as they, too, have a long lead time. They will also be more manly for the extra power, plus having some adjustability for back-slip will be invaluable, especially at the Northwest 200 where there are a lot of very heavy braking zones, less so at the TT.

With the suspension all measured up, the engine away getting its cylinder head tuned, and the long lead time products ordered, the next thing to do while waiting is to start looking at things like the brakes which will get a caliper upgrade to the Brembo GP4-RX units, which leaves a decision to be made on what to do with the discs. The standard 300mm discs can’t be replaced with the thicker ones found on the R6 because the mounting bolt holes on the R7’s wheels are different, so all options are on the table due to the fact we’ll have to go aftermarket (Brembo). We could stick with a 300mm diameter, or sacrifice some agility in the handling, and go all the way up to 320mm for maximum braking power. At the time of writing, Rutter is undecided which route to take, as there are theoretical pros and cons for each set up. This will probably be one area that might be added to the list of things to test once the bike is up and running. The Brembo GP4-RX calipers are properly trick and the ‘go-to’ for anyone looking for a serious upgrade in braking performance. The bike is only going to weigh 150kg, and not going to be achieving anything like the top speeds of the likes of a supersport bike, let alone a superstock/superbike, so any more upgrade in the calipers department would be wasted. As it is, the GP4-RX is a two-piece machined billet caliper that’s nickel plated, so on par with the kit found on very high-end production superbikes. In short, they’ll be mustard.

There’s also a large selection of parts available on the official Yamaha GYTR parts list that are inbound, such as bodywork and other ancillaries such as switchgear; quick-release conversion kits for the rear wheel as well as captive spacers; crash protection; fuel caps; rain light; steering lock stops; lever protectors; and a quick shifter which all help as they’ve already been developed, something that is one of the biggest challenges with this bike. Nobody has built or developed an R7 to this set of regulations. A lot of the racing that has been done in America has been in a one-make series, so the bikes have been raced as standard which means zero learning for tuners. Elsewhere, an R7 won the MotoAmerica Twins Cup race at the Daytona 200 meeting last year in the hands of Blake Davis who went on to take overall honours in the championship, with the next three places being occupied by Aprilias. Even though the results of the R7 in that championship are clearly brilliant, the fact is that there was only a sprinkling of Yamahas in the championship, so the knowledge base is limited.

This might be the biggest and most ambitious project we’ve undertaken, certainly when you factor in the time available to try and turn a humble R7 into a bike that can challenge for race wins in the two toughest races on the planet. However, by more or less handing it over to the likes of Michael Rutter, Bathams Racing and MSS Performance, and knowing what we know about how good the road bike is, the words of the late, great David Jefferies seem somehow entirely appropriate to draw upon as a source of motivation and inspiration to give us the belief that it can be done.

“Those who risk nothing, do nothing, achieve nothing, become nothing.”

Source: morebikes.co.uk