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Digital Subscriptions > Fast Bikes > Issue 327 > SUPERSPORT’S SAVIOUR

SUPERSPORT’S SAVIOUR

On the cusp of 600cc sportsbike extinction, Yamaha’s fifth generation R6 is set to keep the sector alive for a good few years to come.

YAMAHA R6 LAUNCH

Pimped looks, a trick front end, quickshifter and… a Euro 4 motor that mullers performance. What a b@stard! 18 JUNE

If you backtrack to 2008, the 600cc supersport sector was hotter than Nigella Lawson with ice cream on top. And right at the head of that rev-hungry, sharp handling, mid-capacity performance frenzy was Yamaha with its then new to the market fourth generation R6. It was a model that took the scene to a whole new level, combining Grand Prix looks with a lithe handling frame, and an engine that mullered its rivals in a totally unforgiving way. You could say things looked pretty damn rosy for the Japanese manufacturer, but that window of glory was to be short-lived, because later that year the global crisis came along and did a right old number on the motorcycle market.

Hardest hit of all was the supersport sector and, like an overnight plague, sportsbike sales plummeted faster than a 70-year-old’s breasts set free from a bra. Just like that vision, it’s been a painful time since for the sector, afflicted further by Brussels’ relentless legislative tape that’s seen most major manufacturers throw in the 600cc towel and walk away from the challenges of meeting Euro 4 constraints.

Triumph’s gone, so has Suzuki, Kawasaki and Honda too. But Yamaha’s passion for performance has meant they’ve bucked the trend and stuck two fingers up to the autocrats, releasing a fifth generation R6 to the market near enough a decade after the previous one came to light. Here’s the good news… and the bad.

“We don’t expect to sell a lot of these, ” weren’t the words I was expecting to hear from Yamaha’s European divisional manager at the start of the R6’s presentation in Almeria, but I respected his honesty, along with the efforts he explained had gone into making the new supersport offering a game changer. New 43mm forks, nabbed straight from the R1, had made their way onto the model, along with a six-tier traction control system, a quickshifter, a more powerful braking system and a fairing design that Yamaha claimed made the R6 8% more aerodynamic. And a whole lot sexier.

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