It’s unsatisfying for me to be in realization of the fact that a place like Buddh International Circuit hasn’t been hosting a world class motorsport event anymore. F1 was hosted for two years but then for some extremely unfortunate reasons, the F1 management pulled their plug and decided not to host races here unless certain laws are changed for things to start making sense. MotoGP and World Superbike are still a distant dream for an enthusiast to see them happening live right here on the outskirts of Delhi. The management at BIC, however, have kept the circuit alive and the funds flowing in one way or the other by offering track days and other events every now and then. We are hopeful that we shall see the most prominent motorsports here sooner than later. So, there could not have been a better place for the launch of one of the most important motorcycles of the year, Yamaha’s YZF-R3. Perfect venue for Yamaha to unveil their much awaited 321cc Sportbike and further strengthen their image in the market as the makers of performance motorcycles. The top brass at Yamaha rightfully mentioned at the beginning of their presentation that while they have been concentrating on the commuter segment a lot lately, they would have never ignored the performance segment and enthusiasts at all. They delivered on their promise. It never really came to my mind earlier but the glamor quotient became absolutely clear as crystal when I bumped into John Abraham almost as soon as I entered the premises of the track. I moved on to the Media Center with all the stuff that I was carrying where many others like myself were waiting in excitement to further proceed to the main hall. I came across some familiar faces, few friends among a whole lot of people that I didn’t know. We talked about our expectations from the event as we waited. In about half hour time, the crowd proceeded to the main hall and occupied the best seat each one of us could find. While we waited, we were treated to random MotoGP footage on the big screen. The presentation started further 30 minutes on with the anchor enlightening us with Yamaha’s history moving on to a short speech from Mr. Masaki Asano, Managing Director, Yamaha Motor India Sales Pvt. Ltd. Then came Mr. Roy Kurian, Vice President, Sales & Marketing, Yamaha Motor India who further emphasized on Yamaha’s racing pedigree and ran us through some slides about the YZF-R3. The motorcycle was finally ridden on the stage by none other than, you guessed it, John Abraham. The star of the day, R3 (not John), is a visual delight. The motorcycle was presented in two color combinations – Racing Blue and Midnight Black, in which it will be available through selected showrooms. The pricing of 3,25,000 ex-showroom Delhi generated quiet but mixed responses and few sighs and whispers could be heard around. Surprisingly, the ABS is not being offered at this moment, not even as an option. Although, Yamaha says that it will offer the same in future. However, at this price, the R3 undercuts Ninja 300 by about 35,000 on road which is a decent amount. In comparison and at that price, the R3 is well equipped to take on its direct rival. R3 is a modern motorcycle, the engine has Die Cast all aluminum cylinders (also called DiASil cylinders) for better heat dissipation and reduced weight. Forged pistons further enhance engine response, add to weight reduction and reduced engine vibration as well. The closed loop fuel injection system enhances engine performance and maintains RPM consistency in varied temperatures as it monitors the amount of oxygen and adjusts air-fuel ratio accordingly. The FI system feeds petrol through a single throttle body. The crankshaft is 180 degrees and has an uneven firing order producing an excellent noise from the exhaust. The bore and stroke is 68mm x 44mm resulting in a higher and free revving engine. Yamaha had planned R3 test rides on the track to select few and we were there to get the firsthand experience of it. Riders were being sent in groups of 7-8 along with two instructors. BIC has quite a lot of elevation changes throughout the course. The right hander at the end of the main straight has a small decline and it leads to a fast left hander which rises quite a bit for the u-turn right hander eventually leads to the back straight. The elevation for the u-turn is such that the corner isn’t visible to the rider right until he gets there, it takes quite a getting used to. Once familiar, it’s more of a game of the correct prediction of the turn to take the corner smoothly than finding the turn itself. The back straight is longer than the main straight and I was able to hit the top speed of 165kph. That R3 still had some juice left in it was apparent, it could have gone past 170 and around 180kph mark. As the back straight comes to an end, it rises a bit before approaching the 4th corner of the track which is again a right hander. The track starts to decline as soon as the turn starts leading to a small straight before heading to the 5th corner of the track, a left hander. From there on is a series of some of the best corners of the track. The left hander is long but a bit tight and it leads to a combination of right and left hand corners before arriving at the parabola. The parabola is a right hander and it is like the highlight of the whole track as it’s almost a full proper circle and riders can carry decent speeds through it with very good lean angles. Then there’s another small straight followed by a combination of left and right hand corners. Then we arrive at the second last corner which is a right hander and then the track dips a bit leading to the final corner. It’s a left hander and a u-turn leading to the main straight again. The R3 is an enjoyable motorcycle to ride even on a big circuit like BIC. The motorcycle has enough power to keep amateurs happy and on their toes. As it is said universally, motorcycles like these are considered best beginner Sportbikes. Sitting on the motorcycle revealed its very manageable weight. At 169kgs, the motorcycle doesn’t feel heavy to lift at all. The weight distribution, according to Yamaha, is a perfect 50/50 front and rear. The build quality and fit-n-finish of various parts is excellent as expected from Yamaha and the motorcycle is quite a looker. While the riding position is quite comfortable and neutral, the overall design language is aggressive. The dual headlights at the front with a sharp styling provide an aerodynamic design while the rear is equally sharp and practical. The display console is a mix of an analog RPM meter along with a digital speedo meter displaying the most important set pieces of information. Besides that, we get temperature, odo meter, trip meter, gear and fuel indicator as well. Finally, there’s an RPM indicator light that can be set as per riders’ preference at a particular RPM. It flashes whenever the RPM hits that set-mark indicating the rider to upshift. The R3 has very predictable handling characteristics. The steel tube frame that houses the engine as a stressed member does a good job at keeping the handling more neutral than being outright sharp like a Supersport. This combined with a very comfortable riding position shall make R3 a very good motorcycle to ride in the city. The seat height is good and quite low. At around 5 feet 7 inches tall, I was able to put both my feet flat on the ground without stretching a bit. It adds to the confidence in managing the vehicle. On the track, the R3 was absolutely stable at high speeds and engine equally smooth even at redline. I was able to redline in the first 4 gears very easily; however, it seemed difficult to do so in 5th. As per Yamaha, the 6th gear is overdrive and shall provide excellent cruising experience while keeping the fuel efficiency in check. The 6 speed gearbox is slick and made positive gear changes throughout the ride. Given that it was a brand new motorcycle and had already done at least 15 laps on BIC, the quality of the gearbox seems phenomenal. Upshifts without using the clutch were easy and I never faced any single issue with it. For downshifts, pulling in the clutch slightly did the job well. The front and rear KYB suspension provide stable ride at all speeds while it was apparent that the factory settings were favoring towards a comfortable ride. The rear mono-suspension has 7 spring pre-load settings. The R3 doesn’t have ABS but the brakes were still good enough, at least for what I was able to throw at them on the track. However, I can’t say much about the rear brake performance because I hardly used it. For numbers, the front brake is 298mm having a 2 piston caliper while the rear is 220mm with a single piston caliper. Overall, the first impression on Yamaha’s latest motorcycle has been very positive. Although, it’s street credentials are yet to be seen. Indian road and traffic conditions are a bit unique and difficult. So no matter how impressive the R3 has come across, it is still to be seen how it does in the real world riding conditions with not just uneven tarmac, but potholes, speedbrakers, water and gravel! The MRF tyres shall do a better job on city streets compared to their performance on the track. They felt better when riding the motorcycle in a straight line than on leans. At the end of the day, I was satisfied with the whole experience that Yamaha had provided. The venue was right and the motorcycle appears alright. Looks like a good start!