In 1999 Yamaha had three different 600cc sportbikes for sale: the FZR600, YZF600R and the Yamaha YZF-R6. The FZR600 was a holdover model in production since 1989. At one time the FZR600 was the pinnacle of 600cc performance, winning the AMA Supersport championship in 1990. The YZF600R, introduced in 1994 and known in some countries as the Thundercat, was a more street-biased sportbike. In 1999, on the heels of the YZF-R1 launched the previous year, Yamaha introduced the YZF-R6 — a no-holds-barred 600 cc sportbike with performance as its utmost importance.
Like the R1, the Yamaha R6 didn’t utilize new technology to achieve its stunning performance. Yamaha put the bike through a stringent process of reducing weight in every area to give it the best power-to-weight ratio in the 600cc class. The Yamaha R6’s inline, four-cylinder, DOHC engine was the first Japanese 600 to produce more than 100 horsepower at the rear wheel.
The Yamaha R6’s first big change came in 2003 when it was given a new chassis and a new engine featuring fuel injection. The Yamaha R6’s weight dropped significantly from 399 lbs. dry to 357 lbs. dry. In 2005 the Yamaha R6 gained upside-down forks and radially mounted front brakes.
A completely new Yamaha R6 came in 2006. The new R6 featured sharp styling and bodywork, its muffler was relocated to beneath the bike with only a short, MotoGP-esque exhaust pipe showing on the bike’s right side. The new Yamaha R6 engine was now producing 127 crankshaft horsepower and came with a slipper clutch as standard equipment.
In reality, the 2006 Yamaha R6 redlined at 16,500 rpm, but an error showed the R6 redlining at 17,500 rpm, the first production sportbike with a redline in excess of 17,000 rpm. Much to do was made of the engine’s ability to rev so high while also maintaining dependability, but it was later revealed that the bike’s true redline was 1,000 revs lower.
The 2006 Yamaha R6 also utilized Yamaha’s fly-by-wire Yamaha Chip Controlled Throttle (YCC-T) which controls the throttle valves by computing input from a variety of sensors and calculates the best combination of EXUP setting, throttle position and ignition advance to provide controllable power.
In 2008 the Yamaha R6 received Yamaha Chip Controlled Intake (YCC-I) which shortens the length of the intake tracks in only 0.3 of a second to increase engine performance. The R6’s subframe was now made of magnesium, engine compression ratio bumped to 13:1 and new bodywork gave the Yamaha R6 a fresh look. In 2010, to boost mid-range power, Yamaha changed internal engine settings and lengthened the exhaust pipe.
The Yamaha R6 has won two World Supersport titles: in 2000 with Jorg Teuchert and in 2009 with Cal Crutchlow. In 2009 and 2010 the Yamaha R6 won the Daytona 200 with Ben Bostrom and Josh Herrin, respectively.