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The once-dominant four-cylinder 600cc supersports class has now disappeared and in its wake there’s a vacuum for lightweight sportsbikes. Enter the Yamaha R9, an MT-09-based model that’s almost certain to join the range in 2022, bridging the gap between this year’s new R7 and the range-topping R1.
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Rumoured earlier this year, the R9’s existence has now been effectively confirmed by new trademark applications. In a three-day period during the first week of August, Yamaha filed applications for the name ‘R9’ in the European Union, the UK, the USA, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, as well as gunning for the name ‘YZF-R9’ in the Philippines.
It isn’t hard to see how such a model could be created from existing parts to minimise R&D and keep the price down. Yamaha’s MT-09 – completely refreshed for 2021 with a new engine and die-cast alloy beam frame – is the perfect basis for a faired sports model.
And with a six-axis IMU as standard, three-mode TC, slide control and wheelie mitigation, the MT-09 already offers near superbike levels of rider assists. The Öhlins-suspended MT-09 SP would be ideal, requiring little more than some dropped bars, rearset pegs and a fairing for a convincing transformation.
Will Yamaha follow such a straightforward route? Evidence suggests that’s precisely the way the R9 will be developed. The pattern was set by the learner-legal duo of the MT-125 and YZF-R125, which share the same 124cc single in an identical frame, with just tweaked suspension to raise the R-model’s tail and give sharper steering geometry.
Stepping up a notch we get the MT-03 and R3, sharing the same engine, frame and geometry. It’s a similar story with the new R7, borrowing the MT-07’s 72bhp twin and diamond frame and at the top of the range, the MT-10 uses the R1’s frame and engine.
It means that on the ‘R’ side of the equation, there’s currently a yawning performance chasm between the R7, with 73.4bhp, and the R1 with 200bhp. In the past the R6, with 117hp and 190kg, filled that gap.
The MT-09 makes a whisker over 117hp and weighs 189kg fully fuelled. With its new die-cast beam frame and around 50% more torque it appears tailor-made as the basis for an R9 that will be not just a successor to the R6, but a real step forward.
Even on price, there’s every reason to believe the R9 will be an improvement. The R6 Race currently costs £12,099, putting it around halfway between the R7’s expected tag and the £17,402 for an R1. However, the MT-09 is just £9002 in base form and £10,202 as the SP, with improved suspension.