All that’s left, as far as I know, of the last first-generation Yamaha R1 Evan Steel and Kaz Yoshima and I collaborated on in 2000 is this “custom” pencil holder.
I forget the exact particulars, but the deal was that for PACE or Formula USA or some national series that year, Open-class bikes couldn’t make more than (I think) 145 horsepower on the dyno post-race. Designed to even the playing field, rules like this of course only spread rich manure on the fertile brains that make racing racing. Ontario Moto Tech sole proprietor Kaz Yoshima came up with the idea to build an R1 with a big snorkel that would pressurize the airbox and float bowls, theoretically making the bike run like a demon around Willow Springs (where the average speed is over 100 mph) but barely blubber when sitting stationary on the dyno.
Simple enough in theory, nightmare in execution. The snorkel itself was a scale model of one from Kaz’s favorite V-Eight, which led through a hole in a custom FuelCel composite tank. And then it got complicated. The idea was to use smallish jets (so the engine wouldn’t run well on the dyno) but once the bike was moving, air pressure from the scoop would shove fuel through like Old Faithful on nitro. It actually worked, sometimes, but “smooth” and “predictable” were words that need not apply. Jets were constantly changing, while fine-tuning of pressure was accomplished via a brass needle and seat in a plastic hose connected to an air bleed that ran to all four carburetors. Throw in Willow’s infamous wind and that the first R1 wasn’t known for its handling at race speeds and snorkelbike was not for the squeamish. It was for Curtis Adams. Poor guy.
The first snorkelbike got wadded into a ball in Turn 8 and I got my pencil holder. Crazed, fully in the grip of race lust and money and egged on by the rest of us, Curtis bought another R1 from Yamaha, but did not get it dialed in in time for the big Willow money race. Later, the bike fell into the hands of Jeremy Toye of Lee’s Cycles in San Diego, where JT and protégés Evan Steel and Phil Allison finally got the thing to work pretty well—mainly by ditching all the jet chicanery and just building a really stout R1.
Naturally, when I bumped into Evan again at our 2011 Superbike shootout in Arizona (he was there as the owner of his new shop, Evan Steel Performance, and wrenching on the BMW S1000RR) and began babbling on about the good old days, I had to blurt out that I had a 2000 R1 parked in my living room. Within minutes, he’d extorted me into building it up into another 160-hp snorkelbike, minus the snorkel.
“Won’t that be expensive?”
“Not really,” says Evan, “just a little time for me and Phil at the shop. And a few gaskets and things…”
A month later, Evan sent these photos and a wish list of Yamaha gaskets, seals, valves, collets (what are collets?), rings, clips, nuts, bolts, springs, plates and O-rings about two feet and $1500 long, along with word that the reason my R1 was so cheap is because it’s frame is tweaked and will have to be straightened at considerable expense. And that it made 131 horses on the dyno before they tore it apart.
Why is enough never enough? Why can’t we leave things alone? I don’t really know, but I think a 160-hp naked R1 for the street could be good for keeping up with the Tuonos. Tune in to a future issue to see how it all works out. Maybe we will enlist Curtis Adams for the shakedown run…