Yamaha has officially launched the bike it hopes will carry home the World Superbike Championship title in 2009.

Welcoming the all-new rider line-up of multiple AMA Superbike Champion Ben Spies and British Superbike race winner Tom Sykes, Yamaha gave its first glimpse of the YZF-R1 in all its liveried glory.

Having lost backing from Santander, Yamaha will sport a blue colour scheme that is more in keeping with their corporate hues and mimics that of their M1 MotoGP machine. The M1's influences go beyond the exterior too, with the R1 featuring a crossplane crankshaft engine and an uneven firing order, developed to provide linear torque and improved traction.

Although there is no obvious title sponsor for the moment, Yamaha have confirmed that BM Group, Yamalube, Parts Europe and Novation will be new additions to their portfolio.

Despite its innovative mechanicals, the 'uneven firing', or Big Bang as it is referred to, R1 machine has been a front runner during pre-season testing, with Spies in particular showing impressive form on circuits he has never witnessed before.

"The bike is incredibly confidence inspiring," he said. "The way it lays down the power so smoothly, especially through the corners in both the wet and the dry is incredible. It's got better and better over the last couple of months in testing, I really can't wait to get it on the start line at Phillip Island for that first race."

Sykes, meanwhile, admits it has been a challenge to adapt to his new surroundings, but after a breakthrough towards the end of the Portimao test last month, he is looking forward to going racing.

"It's a challenge to get to grips with a new bike, new team and new championship all at the same time, however the fact the bike is amazing and the team so professional has made it a great challenge, I'm really working well with the new R1, the chassis feels really planted and poised, like Ben I can't wait to get out there and race with it!"

Beyond the rider line-up, the remainder of the team is mostly unchanged. Even so, Spies' AMA crew chief Tom Houseworth will remain with his rider, while Sergio Verbena becomes Sykes' new crew chief.

The new World Superbike season kicks off at Phillip Island, Australia on March 1st.

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