I finally had a chance to throw a leg back over a litre-capacity sportsbike at one of best tracks in the world.
Excited? You Bet!
The weather is almost perfect and there is nothing quite like rolling out of pit lane at Phillip Island, especially when you’re taking part in something as special as the world launch of Suzuki’s flagship sportsbike – the new for 2017, Suzuki GSX-R1000R.
To start each session we were ordered to undertake two obligatory warm up laps behind a Suzuki representative, and first up it is the Japanese test rider, Hikaru Ohshiro. Two laps is enough to re-familiarise myself with the beauty of the Phillip Island circuit.
There is just a slight breeze blowing and the sun is covered with some light cloud. I have to admit it was hard to complete two sightinglaps without wanting to open this beast up and see how the new GSX-R1000R plays hard.
With most bikes it’s initially about getting a good base feeling, and I have always found the best way to do this is at speed. Rolling around on these first two laps I was, however, given the time to go over in my head the highlights of the previous night’s technical presentation.
A couple of interesting featureshad me thinking straight up. The bi-directional (up/down) quickshifter for instance. I was informed that it works on both the up-shift (pretty standard these days), but also on the down-shift, which is becoming more common, but is still somewhat of a rarity.
I questioned Suzuki twice as to the fact, as back in my day if you even thought about trying to downshift without the clutch you would chatter off into the gravel trap, and probably have a gearbox to replace.
So my first time around into turn four I decided to give the quickshifter a try, stomping on the gear lever three times, it obliged with faultless downshifts and complete control.
Wow, I have no idea how they do this, but it feels as smooth on the downshift as it does on the up. Motorcycle development in the form of rider aids continues to amaze me.
The next key thing on my agenda was power, and hoping there’s lots of it. A lot of emphasis is put on power in the sportsbike class, and the Japanese manufacturers as a whole, up until the last two years, have probably been a bit off the mark in this department.
This engine for me is a natural evolution of Suzuki’s ability to build strong, fast and rideable sports engines. The GSX-R1000R has incredible mid-range power that continues right through top end until the shift light illuminates. But at no point does it feel like it wants to grab you and throw you off the back.
The engine is incredibly linear in its power production, but strong all the same. As you can see in the tech specs on page six, they have been able to achieve this with a variety of high tech innovations.
Mark Willis has had a long and distinguished career in motorcycle racing across many disciplines. Australian Long Track Champion (1993), Australian Rider of the Year (1996), Australian Supermoto Champion and has won both the Spa and Bol D’Or 24 Hour World Endurance Championship races. Mark finished fourth in the 1997 Australian Superbike Championship and finished as high as sixth in a wildcard appearance at the 1998 Australian round of the Superbike World Championship. He then went on to ride some unreliable bikes in the 500cc MotoGP World Championship, including the BSL, Modenas and Pulse squads. He made 22 starts in 500 GP with a best finish of 13th at Mugello in 2001.
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