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The axe is waving above the Yamaha R1… so what does it mean for racing?

Yamaha Racing

Yamaha has announced it won’t be updating the current generation Yamaha R1 and R1M to meet stricter emissions regulations, a move that means it will gradually disappear from UK forecourts in the coming months.

In a statement, according to BSN's sister publication Visordown, Yamaha announced it will focus on ‘other mid-term business solutions’ in lieu of going to the expense of tweaking its flagship sportsbike to meet new emissions targets being implemented for 2025.

“Yamaha Motor Group, have taken the decision not to develop an EU5+ version of the R1 or R1M instead focussing on other mid-term business and product strategies that will provide future opportunities.”


A potentially major blow for the sportsbike market that one of its most historic lineages will slip off price lists in the next 12 months or so as stocks run out, while Yamaha doesn’t rule out a successor in future, the decision to announce such a move is indicative that a replacement isn’t imminent.

The UK maintains the same emissions targets and stipulations as Europe, despite no longer being a member of the European Union.

The Yamaha R6 continues to race on despite being withdrawn from sale three years ago...

Does this mean Yamaha will withdraw from racing?

Not necessarily, you’ll be relieved to hear. The potential demise of the R1 line from roads draws parallels to a similar decision three years ago to discontinue the Yamaha R6.

At the time the R6 was the dominant force of the Supersport category, so while sales among the general public were drying up, Yamaha instead opted to give the model a major motorsport-targeted update.

Called the Yamaha R6 RACE, the model is strictly for track-use only and ultimately formed the basis of ensuring the model was still available and homologated for teams to continue racing it around the world.

It’s a strategy that Yamaha would be well-placed to replicate with the R1. Though the model - which won the WorldSBK, BSB and MotoAmerica titles in 2021 - is now starting to show its age against the Ducati Panigale V4 R and BMW M 1000 RR, it still remains a reckoned force on the international and domestic racing stage.

As such, the decision to untether the R1 from restrictions around its roadgoing model and instead focus an overhaul with a view to just racing it on the road means it won’t need to go to the expense of developing a brand-new model imminently to ensure it remains competitive on track. 

That said, it will be restricted from making too many changes as any big update would require a new homologation (the current designation runs out in 2028 for the WorldSBK machine) and if the R1 is no longer on sale it could struggle to get a new certification.


The announcement does echo a trend taken by the now retired Suzuki GSX-R1000...

…but is this bad news for the sport generally?


It’s well-known that sportsbike sales are dwindling, particularly in the plus-1000cc segment for myriad reasons, not least the rising list prices, insurance premiums and the growing disparity between what a technologically-advanced motorcycle needs for a rider using it day-to-day.

While historic marques - such as Yamaha, Honda and Kawasaki - have been faithful to ensuring it maintains a presence despite the slim (or even loss-making) returns for legacy reasons, the argument in the modern-age is becoming less and less convincing.


With electric around the corner, manufacturers are being forced to syphon development costs to new mandatory products quite at odds with what plus-1000cc sportbikes and motorsport in general represents.

Indeed, the statement from Yamaha echoes the one Suzuki made in 2022 when it announced its exit from MotoGP, while the decision to halt updates to the roadgoing R1 echoes a similar strategy by its fellow Japanese firm with the GSX-R1000, which quietly fell off price lists when it decided not to fettle the engine to meet new emissions standards.

However, Yamaha has a successful recent history in Superbike racing so adopting a similar tactic to that of the R6 seems logical and potentially even to its benefit if it no longer needs to base it off a model that is ageing and more restricted by external forces.

Ironically, the middleweight sportsbike market has picked up again since the R6 was discontinued with a new wave of machines hitting the streets - including the return of the Honda CBR600RR and the updated Kawasaki ZX-6R - seemingly filling the void for those seeking a sportsbike but not willing to shell out on a large capacity one. 

That’s not to say the R1 - which could yet be replaced down the line once Yamaha has the time and resource to focus on what is a fairly niche model - while the Iwata firm isn’t turning its back on its sportsbike faithful either.

Indeed, the manufacturer partially replaced the R6 with the R7 - a less powerful, but easier to live with sportsbike with a twin-cylinder engine - while there has long been talk that Yamaha is keen to produce an R9 based on the triple-cylinder architecture of the popular MT-09 naked.

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