Yamaha Motor Corp., USA, held the first ever R1 Dirt Track car (R1DT) exhibition race during the “USAC Budweiser Oval Nationals” last Saturday, November 11, 2017, at Perris Auto Speedway in Perris, California.
Attracting top racers from a wide variety of different disciplines to help share the excitement of dirt track racing across the country, the inaugural “Yamaha R1DT Invitational” proved to be an exciting and entertaining exhibition race with several lead changes and improving lap times from practice to heat race to main. Dustin Nelson, champion off-road racer, took the heat race – the historic first-ever race between multiple R1DT cars – and an early lead in the main, before CJ Greaves, fellow off-road championship racer captured the main event checkered flag, with Donnie Moran, hall of fame late model racer, and Natalie Decker, stock car racer, rounding out the top three.
More details, photos and video are at Facebook.com/YamahaDirtTrack, and final results include:
- CJ Greaves: TORC Series three-time Pro 4 champion; Three-time Pro 2 champion; Current Pro Stock UTV champion
- Donnie Moran “Million Dollar Man”: Won the largest payday ever racing a Dirt Late Model at the Eldora Million; Multi-Crown Jewel champion including the North South 100, Eldora Dream 100 and World 100
- Natalie Decker: 2013 ARCA Midwest Tour Rookie of the Year; 2012 Super Stock Class champion
- Josh Hayes: Four-Time AMA Superbike champion; Second in all-time AMA Superbike wins
- Dustin Nelson: Two-time Lucas Oil Regional Off-Road Racing champion in a Production 1000 Side-by-Side; Record six-time ATV QuadCross Series champion; AMA Four-Stroke national champion (Motocross)
- Ken Gushi: Formula DRIFT and D1 veteran; Youngest competitor to race in the D1 Grand Prix and Formula DRIFT at 16 years old
- Cory Kruseman: Two-time Chili Bowl champion; Numerous midget, non-winged and sprint car championships
- (mechanical DNF) “Slammin” Sammy Halbert: AMA Flat Track Grand National champion; 2006 AMA Flat Track Rookie of the Year; Gold and Silver X Games medalist
“We made some history last Saturday putting eight prototype R1DT cars on the track at once for the first time and watching some amazing competitors – current and future hall-of-famers – from so many different worlds of racing compete at a high level and put on a great show for the fans,” said Dave Park, Yamaha’s R1DT project manager. “These cars proved more than capable of some fast and fun racing even with drivers who aren’t accustomed to racing dirt track cars turning fast laps side-by-side, mixing it up. Congratulations to CJ, Donnie, Natalie and Dustin for their historic finishes Saturday night, and thanks again to all of these amazing drivers for coming out and racing with us.”
Some initial comments from the drivers included:
“After testing the R1DT concept for the last couple years, getting to race them this weekend was very exciting,” Dustin Nelson said. “I can’t think of a test day where we weren’t talking about how fun it would be to battle it out with other R1DT cars in a race. The night started off great with a second place in qualifying and taking the heat race win starting from the second row and having a great battle with Josh Hayes. Starting the main from row three and getting to the lead by lap three was awesome, but after that I ran into some trouble and got caught up in some carnage that set us back to finish fifth in the end. All in all, I’m pumped that I got to take part in the first ever R1DT race and that this awesome concept is still moving forward with some real traction!”
“It was pretty crazy to be able to have people from almost everything on wheels and an engine all racing against each other – so much talent all the way through the field,” said CJ Greaves. “It was a blast racing the new R1DT, and if you ever get a chance to drive one of these you won’t be disappointed.”
“I want to say thank you to Yamaha for the incredible opportunity to drive their new R1DT dirt track prototype car in their first Invitational Race,” Josh Hayes said. “Going from a Superbike to a four-wheeled vehicle was definitely an ‘out of my element’ challenge, but the car was so much fun to drive! I have to admit that my expectations were quite different. Where I expected the R1DT to drive like a high-powered kart, it was much more challenging by the fact that it truly drove much more like a real car with the ample power and amount of weight transfer. By talking with more experienced drivers, it seems this could be an affordable, and oh so fun way to get introduced to true circle track car racing! During the race, I unfortunately let my enthusiasm get the best of my inexperience resulting in my spinning the car twice! But I seriously doubt that anyone on track had more fun than I did, and I’ve gotten to do some pretty fun stuff! Now I’m hooked, and I just have to figure out how to get more opportunities to drive the R1DT, or find out how to buy one!”
“This was a blast from the past,” said Donnie Moran, the Million Dollar Man. “The Yamaha R1DT has a bright future. It’s the need for speed. Awesome ride. Thank you to everyone at Yamaha.”
“I can’t thank Yamaha enough for having me out for the inaugural R1DT Invitational race,” Natalie Decker said. “It was really cool to be a part of the event representing TRD and competing side-by-side against some of the best drivers from a variety of motorsport disciplines. The car itself was so much fun and easy to drive. There’s no question this model would be the perfect car for a driver moving up the ranks or even someone with more experience. It’s definitely got plenty of speed and handling to be super racey. It’s really going appeal to a wide variety of drivers.”
“I have raced dirt circle track cars my whole life, and in 35 years this is the first production race car I’ve ever driven,” Cory Kruseman said. “Yamaha understands what it takes to make racing fun and economical again! I am looking forward to helping change the sport we love so much now that people can afford it.”
“I had a blast driving the R1DT,” Sammy Halbert said. “It was something totally different for me. The mechanical DNF was a bummer because it was so much fun to drive the car. I wanted to get all my laps in and see what I could have done in the main. I know the R1DT is a prototype and Yamaha will dial in those cars even more. I look forward to seeing how they evolve and would love to race it again! The R1DT Invitational was such an honor. It was really cool to race against drivers with such diverse backgrounds. At the end of the day, we are all racers and we want to do well. If Yamaha does this again next year, I hope they invite me out again so I can show everyone how flat trackers do it!”
“First off, I want to thank Yamaha Racing and the entire staff for their genuine hospitality and their continued efforts to put on a great show for the fans,” Ken Gushi said. “Although the race didn’t end well for myself, it was a tremendous learning experience and I had so much fun. I am hooked! The R1DT performed flawlessly. The chassis is extremely predictable and responds well to setup changes. As a beginner of dirt track racing, I was able to learn so much about the sport with such little seat time.”
Yamaha’s R1DT concept dirt track racecar is still in prototype development, but has captured attention from the racing world for its unique design and production possibilities. The tube chassis, purpose-built dirt track car is powered by a fuel injected, inline 4-cylinder engine from Yamaha’s R1S production motorcycle. It is designed to be a low maintenance, low cost-of-operation turnkey production racer with the potential for national retail distribution, financing and parts support that could bring a new level of accessibility to fans and would-be racers from outside of the current dirt track world.
The Yamaha R1DT concept brings some unique features to dirt track racing, like symmetrical suspension components, variable engine output, data acquisition, and the ability to run on pump gas. Ultimately, if the project makes it to production, it could become an all-new racing package that can reduce operating costs and serve as a good training tool for up-and-coming drivers without sacrificing the fun factor for more experienced racers.
“We’ve seen a lot of interest in the R1DT from the pits to the grandstands and even throughout the country as dirt track fans and people who are new to dirt track are asking a lot of questions and showing a lot of interest in the cars,” Park said. “The R1DT is still a concept at this point, but this is the type of momentum we need to keep this project moving forward. We’re very excited with the result, and we’re already planning for how we can keep improving and pushing these cars towards full production.”