Words: Yamaha Motor Australia
Photos: Jeff Crow
Take a good look at this CDR Yamaha Monster Energy Team YZ450F, folks, as it may be the only chance you get to see it in 2020.
Thanks to COVID-19, this year’s MX Nationals is in disarray, compounded by long-time series promoter WEM’s early exit from the championship. This year’s Australian Supercross Championship has been cancelled, and while not official at time of writing, it seems like the MX Nationals may suffer the same fate. Unfortunately, that’s left MX weapons like the one shown here in stasis for months.
What you’re looking at specifically is the 2020 Yamaha YZ450F that was going to be campaigned by Kirk Gibbs for the Craig Dack Racing Yamaha Monster Energy Team in this year’s MX Nationals.
Australia’s most successful motocross team for two decades, CDR Yamaha boast the likes of Darryl King, Jay Marmont, Josh Coppins and Dean Ferris on their roster of past champions.
But CDR Yamaha’s success can’t be attributed entirely to the skill of their riders. A professional technical team, led by Gary Benn, Brad McAlpine and Allister Kent in 2020, are as much a part of the squad’s success as the guys in the saddle.
Kirk Gibbs made his debut with CDR Yamaha last year, and after an up-and-down 2019 season, he was fit and ready for 2020, boosted by winning the New Zealand Motocross Championship back in March.
His 2020-spec YZ450F was ready, too, but what do CDR Yamaha do to make the YZ450F a moto winner?
The Right Package
For 2020, the Yamaha YZ450F came out with a several significant changes and as Kirk is only on board for motocross, he didn’t race the updated bike during last year’s Australian Supercross Championship.
As a rider, Kirk needed to encompass what he liked about last year’s race bike, then go through a range of updated parts on the 2020 model and find a motor and suspension package that works for him across a wide ranges of tracks and conditions. This is where the experience and knowledge of the rider and the CDR tech team can really shortcut the testing process and make the right changes at the right times.
One thing that Kirk didn’t change on the 2020 YZ450F was the ergonomic set-up. He retains the standard clamps and even runs the bar mounts in the factory back / forward position. Add a set of Renthal 996 handlebars and Renthal diamond pattern grips and Kirk instantly feels at home. The standard levers and perches remain, too.
The only other change to the layout is a slightly higher seat. CDR Yamaha found in testing that some extra padding in the centre of the seat gave the riders a better position on the bike. This, combined with a gripper seat cover, makes Kirk feel more planted on the machine. Add some sharpened footpegs and the 2015 MX Nationals MX1 Champion is dialled in as far as comfort is concerned.
It’s a tired old line, but a lot of racers aren’t looking for more horsepower in a 450cc motocross bike. When a standard MXer pumps out around 58-60hp (43-45kW) at the rear wheel, chasing big dyno figures is pointless if the rider can’t control it or the tracks don’t require it.
For Kirk and the CDR team, its more about enhancing the standard YZ450F’s already impressive motor package. Changes on the 2020 motor make it more rideable, broaden the power out and allow Kirk to run taller gears for longer, so he doesn’t fatigue as fast and shouldn’t need to crawl all over the bike’s front end to keep it on the ground.
This style of power delivery is right up Kirk’s alley as he rides the bike ‘in the torque’ and not in the high rpm range. For those who have been trackside when Kirk rides by, you can hardly hear him as the motor is in a tall gear and the rpm is low - it’s almost as though he’s in stealth mode!
The GYTR motor package – head, cams and piston – provide exactly the style of power Kirk likes. There is an increase in power, of course, but more importantly, it keeps it in the same delivery as a standard motor. With the GYTR motor package, power is broadened across the rpm range, which allows Kirk to run his preferred higher gear and pull that low rpm as the GYTR parts ensure the motor has the grunt and torque to take it.
A Vortex ECU gives the team some adjustability in the power delivery. Using the low, mid and high rpm clicker adjustments, CDR techs can fine tune the power and also program maps that increase or decrease the rev limit as Kirk or the conditions require.
Many people would think that riders chase as much power as possible and as aggressive as they can make it, but those days are long gone and often teams will reduce the rpm limit and add fuel to give the power band a nice, fat feel and ensure traction is optimised.
The CDR Yamaha Monster Energy Team have a long relationship with Pro Circuit and their exhausts have been the team’s preferred pipes for nearly 30 years. The relationship is so tight that special exhausts can and have been built for CDR in the past. But now, with a YZ450F motor package that is readily available, the PC exhaust for 2020 is an off-the-shelf unit and one that works perfectly with the GYTR motor combination on Kirk’s bike.
Chassis and Suspension
The Yamaha YZ450F already comes with class-leading KYB suspension, but CDR’s status allows them access to some special parts from KYB to make the best even better.
“One area we think is important to invest more is in suspension,” Team Principal Craig Dack has said on several occasions.
That being said, high-end parts are useless if the basics of the chassis and suspension aren’t right. CDR Yamaha put a lot of emphasis on ensuring the valving is suited to each of their riders and that the spring rates, balance and geometry of the bike are right before throwing any parts at it. No part, no matter how good it is, will fix an unbalanced or poorly set-up bike.
A lot of the KYB parts and coatings CDR Yamaha chooses are aimed at ensuring the action of the suspension remains the same over a 35-minute race and won’t fade with heat as the moto wears on. Others allow for better external adjustability, so changes can be made on the go throughout a race day.
As far as the damping action goes, the overall feel of Kirk’s bike is undoubtedly firmer than a standard YZ450F, but it also retains a plush feel for rider comfort. Modern progressive suspension can be tuned to be plush at the top yet still have good bottoming resistance - hard without being harsh.
The rear shock on Kirk’s bike uses a baseline of 102-105mm ride height, while the fork can be slid through the clamps to get the front wheel feel Kirk requires. That can range anywhere from flush with the clamps on a whooped-out sandy track, to five millimetres through to sharpen up the steering. Kirk rides with a lot of faith in front-end traction and you can see how well his YZ450F is set up as he’s able to change direction on hard pack and smooth surfaces effortlessly.
Attention to Detail
It’s the little things that make a good race bike. The lock-wiring of nuts and bolts, the protective mesh over the radiators to, the hours put into designing the team graphics kit, not to mention the man hours involved in building, greasing, polishing and then maintaining the bike in as-new condition for a full motocross season.
“I raced Yamaha all my junior career and up until 2012, but when I came back in 2019, the bike had changed considerably in so many ways.” Kirk explained. “But there was a familiarity about it and then, working with the CDR Yamaha team, it didn’t take long to fine tune everything to my liking. I was comfortable on the bike in a very short period of time.
“The stock bike is so good now that very little needs to be done. The YZ450F I raced in New Zealand was very close to standard and we were still able to get the job done there. But the CDR Yamaha Monster Energy Team YZ450F is on another level. The power is limitless, yet still so easy to use. The suspension is tailored to my liking and the bike feels brand new every time I sit on it.
“I’m really happy with the bike the team has developed and don’t want for anything . . . other than some events to race it at!”
CDR Spec Check - Kirk Gibbs’s YZ450FL
Cylinder Head: GYTR
Throttle Body: Factory
Exhaust: Pro Circuit TI6
Air Filter: Unifilter
Engine Covers: GYTR
Engine Oil: Yamalube RS4GP
Spark Plug: NGK
Fork: KYB Factory
Shock: KYB Factory
Handlebars: Renthal 996
Handgrips: Renthal Full Diamond
Triple Clamps: Factory
Chain: DID 520ERT3
Seatcover: Topline (CDR spec)
Decals: Fleetwood Print Group
Disc Rotors: Factory
Fuel Cell: CRM carbon
Glide Plate: CRM carbon
Brake Clevis: GYTR
Launch Master: GYTR
Chain Blocks: GYTR
Front Brake line: GYTR braided