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By: Jason Giacchino

Yamaha Motorsports

2009 Yamaha YFZ450R Yamaha Ups the Ante in the 450 Class

Continued from page 2...

The Track

In all honesty, we came away from the trail ride impressed. The way we looked at it, the YFZ450R was invented to be a motocross ATV right from the very earliest stages of its inception. Any trail friendliness is a gift when you consider Yamaha’s intentions. While it would be easy to nit pick the machine out in the woods, to do so would be missing the point. We knew that the true test of the all-new Yamaha would require rhythm sections, berms, whoops, and banners. We packed it up and hit a freshly watered track a few miles outside Los Angeles to ascertain the strengths and weaknesses of the YFZ in its own environment.

Within the first completion of the first lap, the verdict was in: The weaknesses of the standard YFZ450 are never more apparent than after a hot lap on the 450R!  Yamaha fixed things that many of us didn’t even know were broken, and that attention to detail pays dividends where it matters most.

The first sensation to report is chassis rigidity that lends itself to stuffing the quad hard into corners with almost no sensation of lateral flex. The YFZ450R’s smooth power delivery out on the trails turns into a whole different animal on the track. Having eliminated the low-end bog that was so common with the Keihin FCR carburetor, the savvy YFZ rider’s strategy will be to jam the machine hard into corners then steadily apply the throttle to its stop. Doing so results in very linear acceleration with a healthy bark of overrev for situations where an obstacle appears quicker than the opportunity for a shift. The fuel injection system is effective enough to erase much of the fear of overpowering the available traction and causing the machine to spin out.

Yamaha’s chassis numbers dazzle when it comes to carrying speed through flat corners and banked berms but also contribute to an increased sense of stability when clipping through uneven whoops or casing jumps. Perhaps the greatest strength of the YFZ450R is its ability to track a straight-line. Our test riders found that it was nearly impossible to get out of shape in the whoops, even when taking the choppy line or backing off the throttle in a panic. This trait will translate to seconds shaved off lap times even the first time out of the gate.



Complaint Department

We know, we know -- everyone out there reading this review wants to know whether the new YFZ has what it takes to go toe to toe with today’s batch of race-ready 450s right out of the box. To answer that question, we have to take a look at some of the YFZ’s shortcomings.

We talked about Yamaha’s focus of making the YFZ-R more stable and to that end the new YFZ lost a bit of its liveliness in exchange for rigidity. Yamaha slapped an additional 15mm to the swingarm’s length, which plays out like a heavier front-end on the track (thanks to less squat in the back). In simple terms, the YFZ-R rider had better be prepared to slide his weight to the rear with more authority while accelerating to get the front end skyward. We managed to clip our fair share of square-ledges by providing too little body English.

Additionally, and just like when we said the standard YFZ feels incompetent next to the 450R, Yamaha went and raised the bar one again by bringing one of their GYTR-equipped YFZ-R’s to the track. Equipped with a CNC-ported head, high compression piston, aftermarket pipe and some tweaks to the fuel map with a Dynojet Power Commander, it’s pretty safe to say the GYTR version is to the 450R what the stock 450R is to the standard YFZ450. The good news is that all of these modifications will be available through Yamaha’s dealer network alongside the machine itself. The bad news is that considering Yamaha’s die hard racing agenda in creating this model, we would liked to have seen these perks come as stock equipment for the all-new 450R. In all honesty, this type of treatment has become standard fair for many of the manufacturers of late and would go a long way to place the YFZ450R on par with Can-Am’s DS450x MX or KTM’s SX 450 stock models.

Sadly we’re forced to conclude that while this machine will make a stunning recreational model and a great starting point for the MX track, Yamaha has left too many racing requisites up to the rider for this quad to be considered “race ready” off the showroom floor. Not only are the pricey GYTR bits required to put the performance on par with some of the other race-ready 450s being offered today, little details like the lack of nerf bars and tether/ kill switch only means more money out of the consumer’s pocket to get the YFZ450R from the dealership to the racetrack.

Yamaha’s certainly taken a step in the right direction with the YFZ450R as the industry is finally shifting its perspective toward the competition-worthy bone-stock ATV race machine. However, until a few small details are worked out, the YFZ450R isn’t quite race-ready at the OEM level.

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