Ever since 2021 there’s been a growing bank of evidence that Yamaha is working on a purpose-made sports bike built around the 889cc three-cylinder engine used in the MT-09 and XSR900. Now it’s taken a big leap forward with the reveal of the XSR900 DB40 Prototype at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.
While Yamaha is pushing the retro element of the bike – it’s ‘DB40’ name is intended to mark the 40th anniversary of the company’s Deltabox chassis design, which first appeared on the 1982 YZR500 GP bike and reached production in 1985 on the TZR250 – the adoption of dropped bars shows how well the evolution of the Deltabox used on the current-generation MT-09 and XSR900 is suited to a sports bike stance.
There are actually two possible routes Yamaha can take to make a production sports bike around the MT-09/XSR900 platform. One is a straightforward YZF-R9, created in exactly the same way that the YZF-R7 is built around the MT-07 and the YZF-R3 is made from the MT-03’s components. We know this is part of Yamaha’s plan – the company has obtained trademarks on the names ‘R9’ and ‘YZF-R9’ as well as copyrighting the ‘YZF-R9’ logo in its signature font.
However, the retro style of the Goodwood bike’s bodywork hints at another project that’s been subject to a trademark, the ‘XSR GP’. That name, trademarked last year, ties in neatly with the Grand Prix heritage of the Deltabox frame that’s the DB40 Prototype celebrates, and matches the XSR-based design of the prototype’s bodywork.
Most of the DB40’s mechanical parts, including the fuel tank, are straight from the XSR900, while the single-seat tail comes from an optional café racer kit for the bike. The front fairing, meanwhile, appears to be very much like the original TZR250 that debuted the Deltabox frame in production form back in the mid-1980s.
If the ‘XSR GP’ name is brought to production, we’d expect the showroom model to look a lot like this, albeit with mirrors and headlights for road legality. The YZF-R9, in contrast, is sure to get a much more modern look, albeit with a similar stance and dropped bars.
Of course, it’s not necessarily an ‘either/or’ situation. Don’t be surprised if both a modern R9 and a retro XSR GP are added to the range, based on the same mechanical parts, in the near future.
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