By Dan Moakes
March 11 2007
Suzuki is the third Japanese manufacturer in the premier GP class, in that the 500cc (or MotoGP) World Champion has only come from three different camps in the last 31 seasons, with Honda and Yamaha leading the way. Suzuki’s 154 race victories have come in the 50cc, 125cc and 500cc classes, and their sixth 500 title (and fifteenth overall) went the way of Kenny Roberts Jr in 2000.
Suzuki’s Superbikes had not been particularly prominent, with only eight race wins across 17 seasons. In the same year as Roberts tasted success, Pier-Francesco Chili took his Suzuki to a best of fourth overall in WSB, scoring ten podium results in the process. But the 2005 season saw an end to the days of Ducati’s domination, with the new 1000cc four-cylinder Suzuki the class of the field. The bike, which had already taken the 2004 BSB title with John Reynolds, took nine race wins and allowed Troy Corser to secure the first WSB title for the marque.
The current GP bike is the V4-engined GSV-R four-stroke, which has yet to take a victory and, indeed, is yet to match the best machines in the class, on a level playing field. Kenny Roberts was the team leader for seven seasons, with John Hopkins having joined him in 2003. Now the younger man steps up, with newcomer Chris Vermeulen moving in from WSB. This pair could likely be backed up by a Japanese factory test rider or two, with Nobuatsu Aoki again a potential wildcard entrant.
In the World Superbike series, a single works-supported GSX-R1000 was campaigned by Gregorio Lavilla in 2003, the Spaniard moving up from the 750cc 2002 version, and with Italian Vittorio Iannuzzo in an occasional supporting role. The Alstare team did not return for 2004, but were back with a vengeance last year, with Corser and Yukio Kagayama. The British championship saw the 1000cc machine introduced in 2002, and Rizla Suzuki’s assault was led to ultimate success by Reynolds, with experienced factory man Kagayama also part of the mix.
The BSB team had a troubled 2005, not least with injuries affecting Reynolds’ efforts, but will look to return to form with experienced pilots Shane Byrne and James Haydon in 2006, both multiple race winners, and the former the 2003 title winner. Other (semi-)privateer bikes will be on the grid when the season starts, with Vivaldi Racing looking to move forward after switching from Kawasaki, and James Buckingham looking to retain his Cup crown.
Suzuki’s success tally