Four wheels have never got my juices flowing in the same shit-kicking manner as a moto. The buzz is inherently more submissive, less dangerous so less deathy, and everything’s a tad automated – no pun intended. Having said that, as a petrol head, I have an unconditional appreciation for anything that sucks, squeezes, bangs and blows.
So, when Yamaha UK invited 44Teeth to Thorney Motorsport near Silverstone to sample the firm’s all-new YXZ1000R on a track that could easily host a motocross race, we said yes to some four-wheeled muddy rutting.
What’s the YXZ1000R all about then? Originally produced to service the US market, the YXZ has received keen interest from the European sector, and motorcyclists. It’s powered by a 998cc three-pot motor (similar to the MT-09’s) and uses a five-speed sequential gearbox. Chassis wise, there’s nearly half a metre of suspension travel at each corner to gobble any surface beneath. And weighing in at just shy of 700kg and packing over 100bhp, Yamaha reckons the 1000R will peak at around 80mph.
The safety briefing’s emphasis centred on just how easy the YXZs are to roll. Although fun, these are competition machines, not wanky stag do fodder. For the benefit of onboard helmet footage, I had my MX lid drilled and fitted with a Hans safety device. A substantial roll cage, four-point harness, and arm tethers complete the necessary safety measures.
My off-road/ATV career stretches to a pissed-up session on a stag bender in 250cc Honda buggies that wouldn’t pull the custard from a trifle. And, as you’ll work out in the video below, it showed. Yamaha claims the YXZ1000R is the world’s first pure sports Side-by-Side (SxS) vehicle, and I was soon side-by-side sitting next to one of Thorney’s instructors and in-house racers who showed us how to (and how not to) drive these weapons, including a lesson in jumping. As a self-proclaimed control freak, I suffer with major anxiety in a passenger seat: my worst experience being several laps in a TVR Chimaera, which lasted all of three laps at Llandow circuit before waving the white flag and detritus from my pants.
The formula sounded simple – slow in, fast out to avoid rolling. Braking has to be executed in a straight line, as loading the outside suspension can lead to calamitous penalties. And when Jon Urry – the infamous freelance journalist and crash veteran – rolled one just in front of me, my self-preservation was triggered, setting the serene tone for the rest of the day.
You know those awkward initial moments in a hire car on the continent when you acclimatise to left-hand drive and a nob in your right hand? Chuck a sequential ‘box into the mix to really complicate things, and that’s exactly how I felt during the practice laps. Everything was alien. I felt like a complete novice. But, man, these things are epic fun.
These were the exact same YXZs used to film a TV series with ‘celebrities.’ What happens when you put idiots in competition machinery? Bedlam. That’s what. One of these ‘celebrities’ did enough hidden engine damage to curtail my practice, as you’ll see in the vid…
Think of a four-wheeled version of a motocross bike, and you’re not far off. Hard on the gas, the 4WD fights for grip, shaking and shimmying across the dirt and rarely tracks in a perfectly straight line. The noise, the dynamics, the dirty hustle: it’s a joyous experience. I spent most of my time giggling like a child, eating roost from the cars in front, and, in general, driving like a complete Gareth.
At nearly £17.5k (add another grand for the 60th anniversary colours), the YXZ1000R could be perceived as a rich boys’ toy. There’s also the practical aspect to consider: unless you live in a desert/country estate or have access to acres of land, finding a suitable environment for such a niche weapon is nigh on impossible. Fear not, as Thorney Motorsport will soon have the their experience days setup and underway.