OVER Racing Project
Team Over Racing flew into Southern California from Japan recently for an AHRMA racing event at Willow Springs, and went back three days later. They left behind a new track record for single cylinder motorcycles and three of the most awesome bikes to ever come out of the Orient.
It seems a little unfair to describe the Over Racing Project company as a Japanese version of Bimota, but it fits. They make high-performance motorcycles for both racing and street applications -- in limited quantities, mostly by hand -- around production motors from other manufacturers. That's right, all of these bikes, and new ones like them, are for sale -- for a price. Depending on the rate of exchange, they can be, well, expensive: Price of entry for a complete bike ranges from about 15 thousand to 50 or more for a hand-build race machine like the Yamaha TDM850-powered OV-15A. They also make after-market parts -- custom, braced and single-sided swingarms, exhaust pipes for most common sport bikes, as well as clip-on handlebars and rear-set footpegs.
Call us crazy, but when we got the invitation to ride the bikes we jumped at the chance. Here's an Over-view of the three bikes:
By Mike Franklin, Road Test Editor
Action photo by Tom Hnatiw
Start with a motor that Yamaha could have turned into an impressive sports bike, but instead installed in the sales-bomb TDM850. Add top-quality suspension bits, and garnish with carbon fiber. Transport to your local race track, and cook. That's the essence of the OV-15A.
The powerhouse motor is filled with enough go-fast parts to make a factory team stand up and take notice. Assorted goodies inside the 870cc Genesis-style 5-valve parallel twin -- such as a pair of 12.8:1 Arias pistons with a 2.0 millimeter overbore and titanium connecting rods -- work together to pump out 115 hp at 8500 rpm. Route that power through a YZF750 six-speed transmission, wrap the whole thing in aerodynamic carbon-fiber bodywork, add a ram-air carbon-fiber air-box, and with the right gearing, it's good for a top speed of 270 kph (just shy of 170 mph). More light weight goodies, like a carbon fiber sub-frame and tachometer bracket, allow this horsepower heavyweight to weigh in at just 165 kg (360 lbs).
The running gear is just as impressive as the motor. GP-width wheels from Marchesini, front and rear, mate to grab-a-handful-and-you'll-loop six-piston Nissin calipers on huge rotors. The trick single-sided swingarm is an Over fabrication, and the fully-adjustable rear shock is from a Japanese suspension group called Quantum. The big oval canister on the Over-made exhaust pipe brings the noise down almost to streetbike levels. It was strange to watch this bike just run away from the field during the AHRMA races while at the same time it was the quietest bike in the race.
When the Over team raced these bikes a week before, the temperature was about 30 degrees cooler, such is the way the weather changes in the high desert. As a result, the bikes were jetted far too rich for the 100-plus degree temperatures we had on this day. The bikes would cough and sputter until they got to the upper third of the rev range then clear up and pull like a 14 year old school boy. It meant that high corner speed was crucial to getting the motor to run well on the way out. Fortunately corner speed comes naturally to these bikes, and the OV-15A was the easiest of the three bikes to go fast on.
Push starting the bike was a lesson in itself -- it wouldn't start unless the throttle was opened at least an eighth of a turn, then when it fired, it just jumped away from the guy pushing it. All the bikes have racing shift patterns -- meaning first gear was one up from neutral, the rest down -- consequently the first few laps were an exercise in concentration. Every gear shift took about 2.0 seconds as we mentally checked, rechecked and checked again that we were shifting the right direction -- we certainly didn't want to wreck a hand-built, ultra-expensive bike on the first lap, or any lap for that matter. Shifting soon became second nature, though, and the corner speeds went up as the lap times came down.
Even with the rich jetting, the bike would pull hard from 7000rpm all the way to its 9500rpm red-line. The low clip-ons and high seat made cornering a breeze. The easy way through Willow's Turn Five, a late-apex left that starts downhill and off-camber, was to rest your right elbow on the gas tank to take weight off the bars, plant a knee-skid hard into the asphalt, gas it up and get the rear end to come around and point the bike uphill for the blind, cresting right Turn Six. Get it right, and the reward is a killer drive into wide open Turn Eight. The awesome power throws the bike down the quarter-mile long front straight, and fast laps are ridiculously easy. Five fast laps later, and it was time to play musical bikes.
This bike makes 78 hp, and weighs 120 kg (260lbs). Need we say more? Okay, how about the de rigeur carbon fiber body work, and sealed carbon fiber ram-air airbox. Or an 8,000 rpm redline on a four-stroke 660cc single. The motor started out as a Yamaha 5-valve, water cooled, XTZ660 Single but ended up with a shopping list of go-fast parts like a 12.5:1 compression Arias piston, Carillo rod, Yoshimura camshaft, and a close-ratio five speed gearbox. Cooling is provided by a massive curved radiator with a separate oil cooler mounted behind a set of large-diameter inverted forks, which are controlled by an Ohlins steering damper. A fully race kitted motor sells for 690,000 Yen, which is currently about 7,850 US Dollars, plus shipping. Expensive, but worth it. In the capable hands of Team Over pilot Taka Onishi, it set a new track record for single cylinder bikes at Willow Springs by over 2.0 seconds at a 1:29 lap time. And it's easy to see why. The bike felt more like a 250 GP bike than any other four-stroke we've ridden at Willow Springs (except for a real 250 GP bike, that is).
Entry speeds that would have had our SRX600-based racer tied in knots felt lethargic on the Over. One finger on the powerful twin four-piston Nissin brakes was all it took to slow the lightweight down for the tightest corner on the track, and from there it was wide open throttle. The Bridgestone slicks that were left on it from racing the previous weekend were hardly worn and gave excellent feedback through the massive contact patch. The bike's feathery weight made it ridiculously easy to change lines in the middle of long, fast sweepers and invited crazy lean angles. Naturally, we obliged.
Don't even think of bringing this bike to a track without a set of rollers to get it started. The bike makes so much compression that push-starting is out of the question. Hop on the bike and the stiff suspension gave us the impression of riding a brick, but as the lap times dropped, the suspension became confidence inspiring, soaking up Willow's bumps and ripples without a hint of wobble or headshake. There was no power-sliding this bike through the corners though, and the rich jetting seemed to hurt this bike more than the other two. The checkered flag came out way too soon on this session, and it was time to ride the third and last bike.
Intended for street use, Over makes this bike as a kit for customer-supplied Ducati 900SS motors and running gear, though ours was set up for roadracing and came equipped with an older F1 750 motor. The oval-tube aluminum "birdcage" frame is designed to accept the standard forks, swingarm, rear shock, wheels, brakes and electrics, and the kit comes with an aluminum tank, rear-sets, half fairing and wind screen, and the tail piece, seat, bracket, and tail light assembly all for about the same price as the racing single motor. Optional parts list includes a single-sided swingarm, RC30 brakes, and an Over exhaust system.
The side stand gives this bike away as a street machine, although the only other concession for street use on this bike was the starter motor. Overall, though, the OV-1- was definitely set up to be run hard: The suspension was just as stiff as the single's, but unlike the other bikes, it didn't get much better with an increase in speed. Instead, it felt loose and unplanted in the bumpier corners, a little top heavy in the slower ones. Compounding the uneasy feeling was a transmission that would come out of fourth gear on the way into 100 mph Turn One and into a false neutral. After almost running straight a couple times, a mental note to keep a toe on the shifter through that turn solved the problem, but did little to inspire confidence. And the rear brake master cylinder came apart -- the pedal-to-piston pushrod detached wedged against the frame -- immobilizing the pedal. Both problems were related to stock Ducati parts not standing up to the pressures of race track abuse. If the suspension were set up a bit softer, and the bike were kept on the street, comfort and reliability shouldn't be problems. In fact this bike would have made a better street bike than the other two based on its torquey motor and more civil riding position.
For the performance enthusiast who isn't afraid of spending some dough and knows his way around a tool box, Over Racing Project offers an alternative to the run-of-the-mill tack available from the Big Four, and something competitive to the myriad of specialty manufacturers in Europe like Harris, Aprilia or Bimota.
How to find this stuff The American Importer is The Garage Company: 13218 Washington Blvd
Marina Del Rey, CA 90066
Over Racing 5-14-25 Sumiyoshi
Suzuka City, Mei-Ken
Fax: (059) 378-4253