Kirk Gibbs is entering his second season with the CDR Yamaha Monster Energy Team and now having a full 12 months of racing in both Australia and New Zealand he has the kinks all ironed out on his YZ450F. But for 2020, the Yamaha YZ450F came out with several significant changes and as Kirk is only on board for motocross, he didn’t race the updated bike during the Australian Supercross Championship late last year.
So, as a rider, Gibbs needed to encompass what he liked about last years’ race bike, then go through a range of updated parts on the 2020 bike 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 team can really shortcut the testing process and make the right changes at the right times.
One thing that didn’t change on the 2020 YZ450F was the ergo set up. Gibbs retains the standard clamps and even runs the bar mounts in the standard back / forward position. He mounts a set of Renthal 996 handlebars and Renthal diamond pattern grips and instantly feels at home. The standard levers and perches remain.
The only other change to the layout is a slightly higher seat for rider comfort. CDR Yamaha found in testing that some padding in the centre of the seat gave the riders a better position on the bike and combined with a gripper seat cover, he feels more planted on the machine. Add to that some sharpened footpegs and Kirk is dialled in as far as comfort on the bike is concerned.
It’s a tired old line, but a lot of racers aren’t looking for more outright horsepower in a 450 cc motocross bike. When a standard bike pumps out somewhere around the 58-60 HP 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 already impressive motor package on the standard YZ450F. The changes made to the 2020 motor, were to make it more rideable, broaden the power out and allow the rider to run taller gears for longer and not fatigue as fast as shouldn’t need to crawl all over it front 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. For those who have been track side when Gibbs rides by, you can hardly hear him as the motor is in a tall gear, the rpm is low and its almost as though he is in stealth mode.
The GTYR motor package – head, cams and piston – are exactly the style of power Kirk likes in his bikes. There is an increase in power but just as importantly, it keeps it in the same delivery as a standard motor. With the GYTR motor package, the power is broadened right across the rev range that allows Kirk to run that higher gear and pull that low rpm now the motor has the grunt and torque to take it.
The use of the Vortex ECU gives the team some adjustability in the power delivery. Using the low, mid and high rpm clicker adjustments, the team can fine tune the power and they can 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 give a nice, fat feel and ensure traction is optimised.
The CDR Yamaha Monster Energy Team also have a long relationship with Pro Circuit and have been the exhaust of choice for the team for nearly 30 years now. The relationship is so tight that special exhausts can and have been built for the team in the past, but with a motor package that is readily available, the PC exhaust is now an off the shelf unit and one that works perfectly the GYTR motor combination.
Chassis and Suspension
“One area we think is important to invest more is in suspension,” Craig Dack has said on several occasions. The Yamaha YZ450F already comes with class leading KYB suspension but the teams’ status allows them access to some special KYB parts to make the best, better.
But the use of high end suspension parts is useless if the basics of the chassis and suspension aren’t right. The CDR Yamaha Monster Energy Team put a lot of emphasis ensuring the valving is suited to the rider, the spring rates are right, and the balance and geometry of the bike are right before throwing any parts at it. No part will fix an unbalanced or poorly set up bike.
A lot of the parts and coatings used are more aimed at ensuring the action of the suspension remains the same over a 35 minute race and wont fade with heat as the moto wears on. Others allow for better external adjustability for making changes on the go throughout a race day.
As far as the action goes, the overall feel of the bike is undoubtedly firmer than standard to handle the pace of a professional racer, but also keeps a plush feel for rider comfort. Modern suspension can be tuned to be plush at the top yet still have good bottoming resistance and can be hard without being harsh.
The rear shock uses a base line of 102-105mm ride height while the forks 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 taction and you can see how well the CDR Yamaha is set up as he is able to change directions on a hard pack and smooth surface easily and 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 stop mud and rocks from reducing airflow, the hours put into designing the team look with the graphics kit and not mention the man hours 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.” Gibbs explained. “But, there was still a familiarity about it and then working with the CDR Yamaha team, it didn’t take long to fine tune everything to my liking and I was comfortable on the bike in a very short period of time.
“The stock bike is so good now that very little really needs to be done. The bike 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 am really happy with the bike the team has developed and don’t want for anything other than some events to race it at. It’s a shame to see a brand new bike just sitting there and not being raced,” Gibbs ends.
Kirk Gibbs Yamaha YZ450FL
Technician – Allister Kent
MCNEWS.COM.AU is a specialist on-line resource that provides motorcycle news for motorcyclists. MCNews covers all areas of interest for the motorcycling public including news, reviews and comprehensive racing coverage.