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Best of 2012: Alive and well at 266 km/h

Adrenaline-pumping ride on a Yamaha R1 just what doctor ordered.

Published December 25, 2012

Sometimes, coping with our crippling traffic, incompetent drivers and idiotic traffic laws (no motorcycles in Ontario’s HOV lanes — seriously?) is enough to initiate a cerebrovascular incident.

So once in a while, I’ve just gotta air it out or, as Tom Cruise so aptly put it, “I feel the need … the need for speed.”

To keep my head from exploding, I attended a Pro 6 Cycle track day at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in August. My psychiatrist’s couch was a 2012 Yamaha R1, a 1000cc motorcycle that slices and dices a racetrack like a set of Ginsu knives.

The new, seven-position traction control system guaranteed that I wouldn’t high-side myself into the next millennium, and the two power modes allowed me to work up to speed gradually — highly recommend with a 180-hp motorcycle on a track that demands respect.

The R1’s laser-sharp steering and rigid, stable chassis inspired confidence through Mosport’s high-speed sweepers. Anything that makes you feel more alive and focused than getting a knee down at 200 km/h at the bottom of Turn 2 would have to involve a six-pack, a hot tub and some supermodels.

The R1 goes from zero to 100 in 2.5 seconds and hits 160 in five and a bit. One lap, coming out of the hairpin, I pulled off the racing line to see what redline in first gear equated to. Wow! 143 km/h! With five more gears to go!

A $100,000-plus Porsche 911 I drove earlier this year was hitting between 225 and 230 km/h at the end of Mosport’s long, uphill back straight.

The $15,000 R1 routinely warped its way to 250, the front wheel barely skimming the pavement the entire way. One lap, after a great drive out of the hairpin, I saw 266 km/h cresting the hill before I got somewhat busy braking for Turn 8.

My personal best is 278 km/h, at Australia’s Eastern Creek Raceway on a 2009 R1, but 266 still blew my hair back.

Thanks, Dr. Yamaha. I feel much better now.

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