Press Release from Suzuki: Having just wrapped-up the 2016 World Endurance Championship, Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT) gave a UK magazine the opportunity to ride the team’s 203bhp title-winning GSX-R1000.
The whole team’s watching as I walk over to the highly-modified GSX-R, its technicians poised to remove the tyre warmers and release the bike from its paddock stand. I climb on-board. The bike feels tall, poised high in the carbon Kevlar race fairings. The seat’s rock hard and the rear-sets force my ankles acutely rearward; it’s no armchair.
The bars are wider than expected, and their switchgear’s confusing. Crew chief Dominique Hebrard steps over and translates them – on the left is a cluster of six buttons; plus or minus traction control, pit-lane limiter, total electronics reset and two different power maps. Dominique selects full power and the bike’s Motech dash fires into life, displaying traction position, power mode and revs. I’m ready to roll, the bike’s limiter’s engaged and now all I need to do is start the beast.
This moment couldn’t have come soon enough – a chance to ride the most successful Suzuki in history. A championship-winning GSX-R1000 valued at just under a quarter of a million Euros, built and maintained by the most successful endurance team ever to grace the World Endurance Championship (with 15 WEC titles), SERT, and its 203bhp, hand-crafted weapon. I’m terrified, but can’t wait to clock-up a few laps of the complex and damp Negaro circuit in the south of France.
Below the main and rain light-switch is a simple start button on the right bar’s cluster. I hit it and the Suzuki booms into life as burnt gasses race their way along the featherweight Yoshimura Titanium race system. This is really happening. The garage door’s raised as I pull in the clutch and select first gear. Only I don’t. The bike’s on race shift, which means the pedal works in the opposite direction. I realise as I set off and go to hook second, slotting the standard ratio ’box back into first. It’s not embarrassing… honestly. Or at least it wouldn’t be if 10-times World Endurance Champion Vincent Philippe wasn’t following me out on track riding the standard GSX-R I’ve been using to learn Negaro’s layout. He shakes his head, I hook the selector with my foot and power the bike onto its limiter. It sounds awesome as the pit-lane electronics retard and retain the tuned engine from unleashing its potential.
A man with a flag waves us onto the track, we cross the pit-lane exit and steer left towards the circuit entrance. A right hander’s up ahead and I’ve just enough time to remember which of the buttons cancel the limiter. Stupidly, my hand’s still wide on the throttle causing the Suzuki to bolt unceremoniously towards the upcoming corner. In panic I squeeze the Nissin front brakes and nearly throw myself forward out of the seat. The stopping power’s unreal and razor-sharp to the touch. Lesson learned. I lean into the first corner and the bike rolls effortlessly on its Öhlins suspension and Dunlop slicks. There are wet patches everywhere, and I’m desperate not to hit them as we enter a succession of left and right hairpins, destined for the back straight.
It’s all been third gear work up until now, but as we get onto the back straight the rest of the ’box gets some abuse. Twisting back the throttle, the power is relentless and radically-sharper than the standard bike. Its response is instant and gear changes are super-slick all the way up to sixth, ahead of the heavy braking zone looming. The Nissins get a good squeeze once more, hauling the bike up way too soon for the double right. This bike is going to take some learning, highlighted once more by the Suzuki’s eagerness to flick overly sharp and lead us directly toward the inside kerb. The bike has to be picked-up and realigned. Vincent’s probably in stitches.
To read the full test, SERT GSX-R1000 Tech, interviews and see the 15 title-winning machines in Team Suzuki Racing Magazine, Season Review #2: CLICK HERE