Yamaha FZ-07 Flat Tracker - FIRST RIDE

Yamaha’s new FZ-07 twin is poised to make a big impact in AMA Pro Flat Track.

Yamaha FZ-07 track corner action

I have been around the sport of flat-tracking my whole life, and I never remember seeing as much hype around the release of a new motorcycle as there was when Yamaha released its new FZ-07 twin stateside last June.

When I turned professional in 2008, almost every single rider who qualified for AMA Pro Flat Track main events was Harley-Davidson-mounted. At the time, it was an amazing accomplishment for any other bike besides an XR750 to qualify for a main event. The tables have since turned. At the season opening AMA All-Star race in Savannah, Georgia, on March 6, only five American twins were present in the 18-rider main event, which was won by a Kawasaki.

Kawasaki’s Ninja 650R motor has pushed its way to the front of dirt-track racing. In fact, the Kawasaki twin has quietly won four consecutive AMA Pro Flat Track manufacturer titles. Who do I see as the leading contender to snatch the title away from the green machine? I can tell you this: It’s not the orange and black machine. Rather, I think the new Yamaha, with proper development, will be able to mount a serious challenge.

Cory Texter, Babe DeMay, and the Yamaha FZ-07 Flat Tracker

There have been a lot of rumors about who would field a new FZ-07 in AMA Pro Flat Track this season. Longtime racer/tuner Babe DeMay was the first to put Yamaha’s 689cc parallel-twin in a flat-track frame, and he had his bike ready for the March 6 race at Ogelthorpe Speedway in Savannah. The rider? Yours truly.

Since I didn’t have a twins ride for 2015, I was eager to be the first racer to ride the new Yamaha FZ-97. Right out of the box, it felt really good. Savannah is a very fast racetrack, a place where we often hit speeds of over 100 mph on the straights. The bike handled amazingly well. I was able to drive it into the corner and carry a lot of speed, which is essential on clay half miles.

Apart from an exhaust, air filter, and a Power Commander, the Yamaha motor was bone stock. As such, the bike had about 75 hp, which is 15 to 25 hp less than the top bikes in the class. While you would think this would make the FZ-07 uncompetitive, my lap times said otherwise. Defending AMA Pro Flat Track national champion and long-time Harley racer Jared Mees came over during intermission and told me we were running identical lap times. I wasn’t too surprised. It felt awesome.

Yamaha FZ-07 Flat Tracker static rear view

Notice the DeWalt battery positioned behind the air filter? It was put in place before Texter's semi at Savannah after the primary battery gave him trouble in the heat race. Although only a temporary fix, it did its job as Texter won his semi by almost half a lap. Maybe he should hit up DeWalt for a sponsorship!

With any new bike, there are bound to be some hiccups. We had a few minor battery issues throughout the night that kept us off the podium. At first, I was very disappointed we didn’t have a better overall result. Our speed, however, showed the incredible potential of the new Yamaha, so I left the track with a smile.

It took the Kawasaki many years to become competitive. The new Yamaha was competitive in its very first race. Yamaha sets itself apart from Kawasaki by having a strong interest in the sport. In fact, Yamaha just announced that it has increased its contingency program for AMA Pro Flat Track racers competing on a Yamaha in both GNC 1 and GNC 2 classes. Yamaha’s Racing Division Manager, Keith McCarty, says he’s optimistic about the FZ-07. “We legitimately have a chance to win a twins championship now, which we really didn’t have in the past,” said McCarty. “At Yamaha, racing is in our DNA, all forms of racing, and certainly dirt track is tied in.”

How long before we see multiple FZ-07 Yamahas competing in a main event? Only time will tell. But I don’t think we’ll have to wait that long. The Yamaha FZ-07 will be on top of the podium in an AMA Grand National Flat Track race soon. And I hope to be the guy who puts it there.

Action photo #1

Action photo #2

Static photo #1

Static photo #2

Cory Texter and Babe DeMay.

Cory Texter and Babe DeMay.

Cory Texter.

Babe DeMay.