Tested: 2008 Yamaha YZF R1 GMT94
May 4, 2023 Off

Tested: 2008 Yamaha YZF R1 GMT94

By MRWadmin

Words by Shaun Portman | Pics by Beam Productions

Every so often we get to test some rare and special motorbikes here at Moto Rider World. We were lucky enough to have been invited out to the Kyalami Monday Club to sample an ex-World Superbike and ex-World Endurance bike. However, this isn’t just any bike though, it is the 2008 Yamaha YZF R1 GMT94 bike, which was ridden by David Checa, brother of Carlos Checa, in the 2008 WSBK Championship alongside Sebastien Gimbert. They would also partake in a couple of World Endurance races at the Le Mans 24 Hours and the Bol d’Or 24 Hours in 2008. In 2007 the Yamaha GMT94 Team won the Bol d’Or for the first time in style with a five-lap lead, after having already won as a team twice the Le Mans 24hrs and numerous other Endurance events.

The (GMT)Guyot Motorcycling Team was founded in 1992 by Christophe Guyot – himself a former rider and passionate sportsman – with the aim of making motorcycle racing more accessible to the young people of France. In 2003, the team linked up with Yamaha Motor France to become a more professional outfit and since then, went from strength to strength, including becoming Endurance World Champions in 2004. Now known as the Yamaha GMT94 team, the squad operates a strategy focused on two very different road race classes: sprint racing and endurance racing, more so print racing as of late. Multiple Endurance World Champion, David Checa, aged 43, had also raced in the World Supersport Championship with the Yamaha GMT team in 2006 and 2007. The younger brother of Carlos Checa, David’s racing pedigree includes 250GP and European Supersport before he moved into Endurance racing in 2003. In addition, that same year he was Pirelli’s WSB control tyre tester and participated in a handful of WSB races.

One of the prettiest racebikes, even today, the 2008 Yamaha YZF R1 GMT94 bike has remained in a collection here in South Africa since 2009 with a good friend of ours, Mr James Dent. He purchased the bike and had the 16.5″ wheels(WSBK ran 16.5″ wheels back then) replaced with a 17″ wheel kit so he would have tyres readily available. He initially purchased the bike to do track days on, which he did quite a few. However after a nasty crash at Kyalami after colliding with another rider who came into the pits without signalling, he decided to have the bike repaired and retire it in his collection. Luckily he was given a ton of spare parts, including a motor for the bike and whatever he didn’t have was sent to him by GMT themselves. Unfortunately, the original Laser exhausts were damaged beyond repair and not available anymore so James had a set of Akropovic exhausts fitted to the original headers.

So, yes the bike was retired until I asked James if we, and by we, I meant me, could test the bike again. Rob got to ride the bike a while back around the old Kyalami but I also wanted a go. Without hesitation James agreed and the rest they say is history. At first glance, it’s hard to believe that this bike is 15 years old. It is still as sleek and elegant as ever! The paintwork is mint and so is the rest of the bike. The bike is fitted with a larger endurance spec fuel tank, 24 litres which is a must and the rules for Endurance racing and also to make it to the finish in the WSBK races. As you would expect the 08 GMT94 R1 is fitted with Ohlins suspension, front and rear which is still a trick, even by today’s standards. Braking is taken care of by AP Racing and the R1 is also fitted with an AP Racing front master cylinder. So only the best in that department then! Techwise and there isn’t much to write home about. There is a pitlane limiter, a switch to turn on the ignition and another one to turn off the quick-shifter. No auto blip here, so it was back to basics with this bike. There is also carbon fibre spread generously all over the bike which makes the bike quite light.

The bike hadn’t been ridden in years, only started and warmed up on the odd occasion and hasn’t spun a wheel since its rebuild after the crash many years ago. The first thing I noticed sitting on the bike, ready to exit the pitlane, is just how light it felt compared to a standard bike of the same year. Now this bike was raced in WSBK in 2008 but specced for Endurance racing and not WSBK, so it was still 12kg heavier than an outright WSBK bike.  With only enough race fuel for two sessions and not wanting to push my luck my experience on the 2008 Yamaha YZF R1 would be a short but sweet one. 

There is no Traction Control and with 198.8Hp and 128Nm of torque on tap, to say I was nervous would be an understatement. I put this to the back of my mind though and within a few laps started to gell with the old-timer. I wasn’t taking this old geyser lightly though because just like Rocky Balboa at his ripe old age, this bike can still throw a mighty punch. The riding position is race-focused as you would expect, with bars pushed out wide just the way I liked them. The gearing was way too long for Kyalami and I found myself not using 6th gear at all. This bike apparently did over 331kph down Monza’s infamous straight back in its heyday, so believe me it’s no slouch. 

The handling was rigid and sharp and the stiff setup suited my weight perfectly. The best part about the bike is its brakes though. Once warm they stopped on a dime and I found myself braking later than I ever have done around Kyalami, with plenty of room still left to spare. The brake lever is rock solid and doesn’t offer a lot of feel and feedback like a modern superbike, but trust me it works!

After getting used to the bike in the first session I pushed on a little more in my second and final session. Even on older Pirelli SC2 tyres I still managed to do 1.54 lap times which is respectable, especially while riding something irreplaceable. The two sessions, I did, were the best of my life. I mean how often do you get to ride a WSBK? It’s just as good as I thought it was going to be and I will never get the chance again as James has now officially retired the bike. But, as I have learnt in this game, never say never!

Watch the video review here – https://youtu.be/G0tU2PdvnPQ