MXA RETRO TEST: WE RIDE JASON LAWRENCE’S 2008 YAMAHA OF TROY YZ250F

Jason Lawrence’s YZ250F may sprout from one of Yamaha’s support teams, but it has very few works parts. The shock linkage, transmission and triple clamps are the only works parts from the Japanese factory.

We get misty-eyed sometimes thinking about past bikes we loved, as well as ones that should remain forgotten. We take you on a trip down memory lane with bike tests that got filed away and disregarded in the MXA archives. We reminisce on a piece of moto history that has been resurrected. Here is our test of Jason Lawrence’s 2008 Yamaha of Troy YZ250F.

Yamaha of Troy has a long and rich history as a team sponsor in American motocross (even though the name and the brand haven’t always been in sync). The first major push by the Yamaha of Troy brain trust was in 1993 when they hired Erik Kehoe as their sole rider. Then, when Erik retired in 1995, they named him team manager of their new 1996 AMA 125 Supercross and 125 National Championship team‚ albeit under the Honda of Troy banner. Later, the team, still under Kehoe’s management, switched both brands and names when it went with Yamaha in 1999.

Called the “Fifth Dragon” because of its dragon-like logo, Yamaha of Troy earned its first Supercross title when Ernesto Fonseca won the 125 East in 1999. Yamaha of Troy kept a 125 Supercross crown in its stable for the next three years, but in 2003 the team hit a dry spell. The drought finally ended when YoT rider Jason Lawrence won the 250F West series in 2008.Jason uses Sunstar sprockets, Dunlop tires and a special high-traction N-Style gripper seat cover.

The win was the result of a combination of efforts. In order for a rider to do well on the racetrack, he must first be provided with the necessary equipment to get the job done. The adage, “The whole is only as good as the sum of its parts,” rings true in the competitive world of professional racing. Successful motocross bikes come together with the help of aftermarket companies, factory parts, plain-old stock parts and mucho dinero. The Yamaha of Troy factory-backed team uses all available resources to provide the best bike possible for its team riders. This year the team’s hard work and effort paid off when Jason Lawrence crossed the finish line in Seattle and was given the AMA 250 West Supercross title plate. 

Knowing full well that a Yamaha of Troy YZ250F has all of the bells and whistles of a factory-backed bike, as well as the ability to go head to head with the KX250Fs of Pro Circuit, RM-Z250s of Team Suzuki, 250SXFs of the MDK/KTM team and the CRF250s of Geico/Honda, the MXA wrecking crew wanted a shot at riding Jason Lawrence’s bike. 

However, we had one major request when we called Yamaha of Troy Team Manager Chris McAvoy. Instead of his Supercross-winning steed, we wanted to test Lawrence’s 2008 AMA 250 National outdoor bike. Getting a team to comply with such a proposal is preposterous when the request comes right before the National season is about to start, but McAvoy was quite accommodating. Not only did he allow us to ride the bike, he topped off the gas tank and sent us to the track by ourselves. Talk about hitting the gravy train!  

Why did we request Lawrence’s outdoor bike instead of his Supercross machine? The answer is plain and simple. Only a handful of riders on the planet have an inkling of what it takes to race an AMA Supercross. Still, every rider can appreciate a finely tuned and perfectly prepped outdoor bike‚ and for that reason, we are grateful that Chris McAvoy obliged.

SHOP TALK: WHAT’S UNDERNEATH THE PLASTIC?

Jason Lawrence’s Yamaha of Troy YZ250F isn’t a full works bike like the one in-house factory Yamaha pilot Broc Hepler races when he’s not injured. While the YoT bike is blessed with a number of factory parts from Japan, it is predominantly an aftermarket-based machine. Yamaha of Troy uses Webcam camshafts, a Vortex ignition, NGK spark plug, modified Keihin 37mm FCR carburetor, Filtron air filter, FMF Mega Bomb Factory 4.1 exhaust system and a Hinson slipper clutch. The folks at Yamaha of Troy modified the cylinder, head and crank, but none of the parts were actually from the factory in Japan. 

We weren’t lying when we said that Lawrence’s YZ250F lacked in works trickery. We could count on the fingers of one hand how many factory parts were on Lawrence’s YZ250F. The shock linkage, five-speed transmission and CNC-machined triple clamps are all from the factory in Japan (the Excel rims and YZ-F spokes are considered works parts as well). Interestingly enough, there wasn’t an oil cooler or remote shock reservoir on the bike. In order to ward off the dreaded overheating problem, Corey Shae, Jason Lawrence’s mechanic, retrofitted stock YZ450F radiators onto the YZ250F. The YZ450F radiators hold 20cc more fluid than the stock YZ250F units. 

On the list of aftermarket products are Sunstar sprockets, Dunlop tires (742FA front and 756 rear), Easton ExP handlebars, Sunline levers, a Sunline aluminum throttle tube and a Lightspeed carbon fiber skid plate, case guards and rear brake guard. Oversize Braking front rotors handled braking chores. The graphics and seat cover were by N-Style.  

Hot start lever.

The AMA rule book states that “approved forks, shocks, and superseded parts must be available in the U.S. through dealers or distributors to AMA Pro-licensed Supercross Lites and Motocross Lites riders for the entire current season.” Also noted in the rule book is that both fork legs (without triple clamps) cannot exceed $4500 in price, and the shock assembly cannot exceed $1700. Hence, Jason Lawrence’s YZ250F doesn’t have the ultra-trick factory suspension of Team Yamaha’s big bikes due to AMA restraints, but he still has pretty slick suspension nonetheless. The KYB kit forks and shock retail for $4500 (forks) and $1750 (shock), not including the Enzo modifications. In order to increase rigidity in the forks, Enzo widened the axle lugs 10mm to reduce flex in the front axle. 

TEST RIDE: PUTTING IN THE LAPS

Jason Lawrence isn’t your typical motocross rider (in any sense of the word). He has a very neutral riding position and tends to weight the back end of the bike more than the front. By modern standards, it is such an unusual riding style that every MXA test rider had to completely change his thought process when riding Lawrence’s YZ250F. Instead of moving towards the gas tank through corners, we needed to sit directly over the rear shock and use a lot of front-end steering input for direction changes. With this approach, the front end didn’t feel very precise, but it turns out that’s exactly how Lawrence wants the bike to react through corners. Jason steers with the throttle and uses the rear wheel, two-stroke-style, to initiate direction changes. Not surprisingly, he also likes his suspension on the stiff side. Faster MXA test riders adapted rather quickly to Lawrence’s YZ250F, while slower riders struggled to find the perfect balance between a neutral riding position and grasping the turning characteristics.

Yamaha of Troy gets to take advantage of the Yamaha’s works clamps.

If no one were watching (and for most of our test no one was), we would have stolen the Yamaha of Troy YZ250F engine and transplanted it into our stock Yamaha test bike. It was that good. Lawrence’s engine had very little in common with the stocker. It was freer-revving, had more midrange, and, unlike the production bike, had ample over-rev. The engine’s power output made the YoT bike feel lighter than the stocker. Every test rider enjoyed the power output. If the stock YZ250F had the same engine as Lawrence’s bike, then it would easily be our top choice for a 250F. 

We aren’t fortune tellers, but we figured that Lawrence’s bike would come equipped with a Hinson slipper clutch. How did we know? Two years ago, we tested Brett Metcalfe and Andrew McFarlane’s Yamaha of Troy YZ250Fs. McFarlane opted for a slipper clutch because he believed that it tamed the chassis’ tendency to wheel-hop into corners. We liked it then, and we like it now (within reason). The slipper clutch had the same results on Lawrence’s bike as it did on McFarlane’s, but it also drew the same rider complaints. The lever pulsated, and there was a fair amount of chattering, but in general, the quirks were offset by the perks. 

Unlike the production 2008 YZ250F, Lawrence’s bike had plentiful top end, revved out freely and pumped out more horsepower.

WHAT DO WE REALLY THINK?

Jason Lawrence’s Yamaha of Troy YZ250F bike is fast. How do we know? He started off the outdoor season with a holeshot over 39 of the fastest riders in the world. His National bike is also a proven machine (having won the first moto of the season at Glen Helen). Yamaha of Troy has provided Jason Lawrence with a bike that is not only fit for a talented rider but also a joy for the less talented to throw a leg over. It’s a delicate mix of stock parts, aftermarket accessories, factory trinkets and Jason’s personal taste.

 

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