The many bikes on display at shows grab your attention for a whole host of different reasons. It may be their pristine restoration or even a similarity to your own machinery, either past or present. Nigel Kimber’s Grand Prix YZR 500 immediately smacks as something that just should not even be there. Top-level race bikes are rare, seldom seen away from the closely guarded paddocks ad workshops, and certainly not something you would stumble across at a classic bike event.
Of course it isn’t a real one, rather an RD500 powered replica. Most people however, would probably not guess its true origins even after minutes of close inspection, it really is that well assembled. The engine has been professionally shoehorned into a TZR 250 chassis, which is then supported by top-notch running gear taken from a whole host of machinery. The forks are Ohlins originally meant for an Aprilia RSV Mille R while the rear end is once again Ohlins intended for a CBR600. Marchesini wheels and Brembo brakes complete the Moto GP look and convince all that they are looking at something Max Biaggi might have ridden at sometime.
The bulk of the body work has been copied directly from an ex Luca Cadalora race fairing, which was then modified to fit the TZR chassis, while the tail unit was originally an Aprilia race seat reshaped to accurately mimic the immediately identifiable rear of the 2001 works Yamaha. Harry Barlow made the sweeping expansion chambers to convincingly finish off the pure GP look. The silencers do have some genuine Grand Prix provenance as they are taken from an RGV Suzuki once ridden by the 500cc champion of 2000, Kenny Roberts junior.
While we can identify the origins of the various parts relatively easily, the motivation behind the project is more difficult to nail down. “It all started when a friend bought a similar TZR250/500 hybrid, the work hadn’t been done well and I knew I could do a better job of it” Nigel stated. “ I just had to build my own, chiefly as an advert for my fabrication and machining business, NK racing, but also to provide something a little faster than my 350LC special when I do track days. The project went reasonably smoothly, or at least, as easy as any special can ever be, the only real problem came right at the very end of the project when getting the bike to look right, adjusting ride heights etc, so the silhouette matched that of the pukka YZR500. It was only then I noticed that the wheelbase was becoming far too abrupt and would have been unstable at anything like a decent speed. This required some lengthening of the swing arm to correct and now all is well”
Nigel Kimber is a perfectionist, as can be seen by examples of his work that adorn virtually every RD special in far corners of the UK and beyond. His YZR replica is a fine example of his workmanship and attention to detail; he already has orders for four more to be built.