Yamaha’s XSR900 DB40 prototype, unveiled at this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed, is the company’s strongest sign yet that it will produce a midweight 900cc sportbike that sits somewhere between the 72hp R7 and the 197hp R1.

Ever since the R7 evolved from his MT-07 skeleton, the MT-09 derivative “R9” seemed obvious to most. This is its second comment that everyone makes regarding the DB40 after it claims the looks like a YZR, TZR, TRX or OW-01.

Yamaha’s official line states that the bike pays tribute to 40 years of the company’s use of ‘Deltabox’ aluminum frames in its race and racing bikes, from Kenny Roberts’ 1983 YZR500 Grand Prix bike to his 1985 TZR250 1KT (which didn’t appear in the UK until 1986) racing bike. Simply put, it’s a Yamaha XSR900 with a fairing and a different exhaust.

But if you scan the non-binding press release for clues and read between the lines, it almost certainly says more.

First off, this bike isn’t just a stripped-down customized production XSR. It consists of a bare frame and engine, both with pre-production serial numbers. You don’t need a custom one-off XSR to use such parts.

Second, it’s rare for a Yamaha League manufacturer to make something like this in an official capacity. They already have a Yardbuilt program to encourage and nurture a bike-centric custom scene, typically inviting dealers and custom bike builders to join rather than building bikes themselves.

The so far un-named Yamaha Motor Europe staffer who created the bike is a TZR250 and TDR250 owner, as well as a fan of 80s/90s bikes in general.

“There’s not too much to it,” he said. “I started with a bare frame, which I removed the paint from and rubbed with a Scotchbrite pad after testing a polished look, but I prefer this. The swingarm and yokes are treated the same way, and also the side covers on the engine.

“The seat cowl is similar to the one we offer in the ‘Racer kit’ accessory pack, and the fairing is inspired by some of our 1980s bikes, but not a direct copy. Something like a YZR500, TZR250 or even an OW-01, as some have commented.”

Technical changes are limited – LSL raised clip-ons replace standard riser ’bars, an Öhlins shock (but not the production part fitted to the MT-09SP) and forks treated to all-black finishes. There’s an Akrapovič exhaust from the official options list, relieved of its catalyst and baffle for maximum noise as a rolling exhibit.

Riding the Yamaha DB40 prototype

MCN’s Chris Newbigging rode the DB40 on the Goodwood FoS hillclimb track.

“After riding it, I hope any production bike – which seems very likely after the reveal – also takes the XSR range somewhere sportier, because it makes perfect sense. 

“I won’t pretend the short run up the hill amounts to a serious test, but I can tell you the XSR naturally lends itself to this kind of treatment – those clip-ons with a decent rise and some wind protection instantly change the feel of the bike compared to high handlebars.

“You’re much more connected and able to enjoy a spirited ride, but without the discomfort of the head-down Yamaha R1 and the middleweight parallel-twin Yamaha R7. The fun factor of the XSR/MT-09 is still there, too. There’s no downside.

“And speaking as a fan of 80s bikes, I think all the manufacturers are overdue modern tributes to some of their defining models from the period – a production DB40, and maybe a Z900RS-powered GPZ900R evocation would be more than OK with me!”

Source: motorcyclenews.com