Saturday, June 23, 2007

Suzuki's MotoGP Bikes: Three decades of evolution

The 1977 Suzuki RG500 XR22. Would John Hopkins want to have a go on this...?

Here at Faster and Faster, whenever we can get our hands on motorcycle GP racing videos from the 1970s and 80s, we sit glued to our TV sets for hours. The racing scene from that era – the wild and wooly bikes, and the men who dared to race those mad machines – absolutely fascinates us. Which is why we thought of quickly comparing a 500cc GP bike from 1977 with a 2007 MotoGP machine. How far have we come in the last thirty years?

That's Graziano Rossi (yeah, Valentino's dad...!), who briefly rode for Suzuki in 1978 in the 500cc class. He later went on to race in the 250cc class, with Morbidelli...

We’ll actually start with the 1974 Suzuki RG500 XR14. Its two-stroke, water-cooled, carbureted 500cc square-four engine made 90 horsepower at 10,500rpm. In 1976 came the Suzuki XR22, on which the legendary Barry Sheene won the first of his two 500cc world championships. By now, the square-four was making 114 horsepower at 11,000rpm and things didn’t change much for 1977, when Sheene went on to win his second world championship aboard the bike.

Marco Lucchinelli, who won the 500cc world championship on his Suzuki in 1981

Marco Lucchinelli and Franco Uncini also won 500cc world championships aboard Suzuki machines in 1981 and 82 respectively. But after that, Yamaha and Honda dominated the 500cc class for a decade. Suzuki only managed to come back on top in 1993, when Kevin Schwantz won the 500cc title. That was followed by a six year dry spell for Suzuki, after which Kenny Roberts Jr won the 500cc crown in the year 2000.

The inimitable Kevin Schwantz, who won the 500cc title for Suzuki in 1993

Coming to Suzuki’s current MotoGP bike, the GSV-R800 XRG0, the bike is powered by a four-stroke, 800cc, water-cooled, fuel-injected V4 that makes more than 220 horsepower at 17,500rpm. The bike uses Bridgestone tyres, Motul lubes, Brembo brakes, Yoshimura exhaust, and Ohlins suspension, weighs about 149 kilos, and can hit a top speed that's in excess of 330km/h!

And finally, John Hopkins on his Rizla Suzuki GSV-R800 XRG0...

But while racing bikes have evolved over the last thirty years, if you want to win races, one thing remains the same. And that, as Barry Sheene used to say, is the will to win…

More racing bikes:
Which is the best among 2007 MotoGP bikes?
The five racing bikes we love!
RD500LC: Yamaha's 500cc 'GP racer' for the common man!
RGV250: Suzuki's GP racer for the street
Team Cristofolini Racing's 350cc, 112bhp scooter!

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