If you see motorcycles as animals, you can also see a sort of evolution, extinction and the formation of new branches of other species. Some of them survived and other didn’t. In 1987, the glorious RG500 had no reason to exist anymore, a new species, stronger, faster and with sharper teeth came around. The GSXR.
The 80ies – The Project
To lead this project Suzuki gave the job to the right person. Etsuo Yokouchi was a racer himself with one goal in mind: challenging his team to make a road-going racing machine.
They first tried with an experiment, a small one. The first GSXR to come out was a 400cc model for the Japanese market in 1984. It was 18% lighter than their home competition and it was a success. Yokouchi said it was time to apply what they learned to the 750.
They took a frame from a racing bike for lightness and agility and fitted it with an air-cooled, four cylinder, 750cc engine. The end goal was 100HP but the starting point was 84HP, so there was a long way to go. Yokouchi let the heart of the GSX 750e completely disassemble and told his team of engineer to mark each part with two colors: red for light but not durable and blue for heavy and durable. They kept modifying the engine until all parts were red and once they were finished they reached the 100HP but the engine couldn’t survive the heat of such power so they had to go back to drawing board. It was Yokouchi himself who came with the solution designing the Suzuki Advanced Cooling System (SACS) which was much lighter than water cooling system using a small radiator and targeting only specific part of the engine using oil. By doing so they reach the durability to go on the market after testing it at full speed for more than 24 hours.
The GSXR 750 came on the market in 1985 and numbers were astonishing: 106HP for 176 kg.
They won the 24h of Le Mans 1984 and 1985. A young Kevin Schwantz won the Daytona 200 in 1988, which was just the start of a long relationship.
Another jaw-dropping motorcycle appeared in 1986, the GSXR1100. It was insanely powerful for that time but also a heavier than the 750. Giancarlo Falappa won his first championship on an 1100 and began his career in Superbike.
Suzuki set a new benchmark for all sports bikes.
The 90ies – The Evolution
They say race on Sunday, sell on Monday. So to stay competitive they evolved the bike by making small changes every year. The GSXR 750 became lighter and more powerful and in 1992 they add water cooling presenting the 600. But the big change came in 1996 when they present a brand new design for the 600 and the 750. The shape was taken from their RGV Gamma 500 from the MotoGP championship with a new twin-spar frame. Well, it wasn’t really new, in fact, they designed it in 1985 but the engine in that time was too wide but over the years as the engine became more and more compact, they were able to finally use it in 1996. They used for the first time the SRAD system forcing more fresh air into the engine, they even managed to make the 600 more powerful than the first 750 from 1985.
The 600 was immediately competitive and won the Super Sport championship in 1998 and 1999 with Pirovano and Chambon.
It was amazing with its racing lines. It was the 600 everybody wanted to have.
The 2000 – Going Big
The new millennium began with a new challenge, Yamaha came out with the first R1 in 1998 which was now the new queen of the road. But Suzuki answered with a new evolution of the 750 which presented as the R1-Killer.
For most journalists “the best sports bike ever” also because it was easier to push to the limit than the R1. But this wasn’t enough for Suzuki because they were working on a new 1000cc bike. And in 2001 the GSXR 1000 was presented, crashing lap times and winning every comparative in the 1000cc class. In 2005 they fitted titanium valves and a new twin injection system for more power and maximum fuel efficiency, and it was this bike to win the first Superbike World championship with Troy Corser.
The GSXR won 7 years straight the AMA Superbike Championship with Mat Mladin and Ben Spies, 11 Endurance World Titles in the last 15 years. And now they’re even back in MotoGp.
The GSXR produced amazing bikes for over 30 years, challenging themselves and their competition. Today you might not see all the changes in the evolution over the decades but you can spot the racing DNA of the GSXR in every model.
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