It's not just car manufacturers that take their products racing—motorbike makers do it too. MotoGP is perhaps analogous to Formula 1. Its bikes are purpose-built for the racetrack, highly specialized to the task at hand, and not at all street-legal. Superbikes, on the other hand, can be thought of more like touring car or sports car racing. Yes, the machines are adapted for track use, but they start life as motorbikes that you or I could ride on the street. Currently, Yamaha's YZF-R1 is king of the hill in Superbike racing. With the first MotoAmerica race of 2016 just around the corner (April 8-10 at the Circuit of the Americas in Texas), we decided to take a closer look at what goes into a championship winning machine.
Yamaha has dominated Superbike racing for some time now. The previous-generation R1 managed to win the championship for five consecutive seasons between 2009 and 2014. And its successor proved just as capable in 2015—the Monster Energy/Graves Yamaha team won every single race, with Cameron Beaubier taking the championship over his teammate Josh Hayes.
MotoAmerica's rulebook for Superbikes requires teams to start off with a production road bike with a 1.0L engine. In this case, that's a Yamaha YZF-R1, a two-wheeled rocket that in some ways blurs the line between road bikes and those ultra-specialized MotoGP machines. Keith McCarty, racing division manager for Yamaha Motorsports, told us that there actually aren't that many changes required to take the R1 racing. "The standard bikes are so good with regards to horsepower, handling, braking, electronics that it's tough to make big improvements. We focus on detail improvement."