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At the turn of the century, Olivier Jacque’s title-winning Yamaha YZR250 was something very special indeed

Exactly 20 years ago, Yamaha enjoyed an especially stellar race season – one that was equally forgettable, though, thanks to its rivals. In the five road racing categories it contested that year, Yamaha won five out of the 10 available world titles. And while Honda’s Colin Edwards clinched the WorldSBK title, Suzuki’s Kenny Roberts lofted the MotoGP trophy, Yamaha blitzed the 250GP championship with a dominating performance by its two riders, Japan’s Shinya Nakano and Frenchman Olivier Jacque, aboard a bike that was the class of the field, the Chesterfield YZR250 V-twin.

The 250 world title was in doubt until the last 10 metres of the final lap in the last race right here in Australia. Nakano grabbed the lead from the start at Phillip Island, he was closely shadowed for the entire race by his teammate, as the duo distanced themselves from Honda’s Daijiro Katoh. It was a risky business, though, had the Yamaha duo wiped each other out in vying for the world title, the title would have been Katoh’s.

Nakano led this nail-biting two-wheeled game of poker until the two of them exited Turn 12 for the last time. Then, in a brilliantly judged slipstreaming manoeuvre Jacque wafted past his fellow Yamaha rider to lead across the line by just 0.014sec, to snatch the world title from his teammate.

Few world titles have been won with as much finesse as Olivier Jacque’s aboard the Tech3 Yamaha YZR250 0WL5. No wonder Tech3 boss Herve Poncharal sat drained of emotion in the press room after the race, when I congratulated him on a mission accomplished in full.

“I don’t want to have to go through that again!” he said ruefully. “Winning the title is great, but knowing that the slightest slip could have lost everything meant we were living on the edge.”

The chance to ride the Chesterfield-sponsored Jacque YZR250 at Jerez a month later, just a couple of weeks after I tested Katoh’s third-place NSR250 Honda in Japan, uncovered the secrets of Yamaha’s success.

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