The Suzuki RGV500 Leg­endary or myth­i­cal?

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Suzuki RGV500 Celebration -

The RGV500 caught the imag­i­na­tion of race fans more than any other 500 Grand Prix bike. Mat Ox­ley tells the story of the ma­chine’s vari­able for­tunes.

Suzuki’s RGV500 is a leg­endary Grand Prix ma­chine, but is that sta­tus more myth than re­al­ity? The RGV raced for 15 sea­sons, dur­ing which it won two rid­ers world cham­pi­onships and not a sin­gle con­struc­tors ti­tle. Dur­ing the same pe­riod Honda’s NSR won nine rid­ers ti­tles and nine con­struc­tors crowns, while Yamaha’s YZR took four and six re­spec­tively.

The RGV is leg­endary not so much for its per­for­mance but for the tal­ent of its most fa­mous rider. Kevin Sch­wantz won the RGV’S first ti­tle in 1993 and 25 of its 37 Grand Prix vic­to­ries.

Sch­wantz first raced the RGV in 1987, Suzuki’s re­con­nais­sance sea­son fol­low­ing a three-year ab­sence from GPS. He com­menced his full-time Grand Prix ca­reer at Suzuka the fol­low­ing March, when he only went and beat Honda’s reign­ing champ Wayne Gard­ner.

That Suzuka win was 90% Sch­wantz and 10% RGV. And it didn’t help Suzuki’s R&D fo­cus, be­cause fac­tory bosses fooled them­selves into think­ing their bike was al­ready as good as the Honda and Yamaha.

Over the next decade and a bit Suzuki al­ways suf­fered from the same prob­lems. The race depart­ment was so small and un­der­funded that the fac­tory ran only two rid­ers, while their ri­vals ran four or more. This com­pounded R&D prob­lems, as they were get­ting much less rider feed­back than their ri­vals.

Hence the RGV was rarely quite right. Sch­wantz ac­cepts some re­spon­si­bil­ity for that. He was so new to 500s that he didn’t have much of a clue about set-up, but he did have a clue about rid­ing the wheels off a mo­tor­cy­cle that wasn’t quite right.

The RGV wasn’t only a bit slow, it also didn’t han­dle that well. The chas­sis was too flex­i­ble, so the bike would tie it­self in knots.

Suzuki did make some progress, though. For 1989 they re­versed the crank­shaft ro­ta­tion to im­prove crank­case-scav­eng­ing, which im­proved car­bu­ra­tion and power. The RGV was now fast. Sch­wantz won six GPS in 1989, but it also be­came frag­ile – the en­gine broke three times.

Then Suzuki lost their way – in 1992 Sch­wantz scored only one win. “The bike wasn’t right. It was a load of shit!” he re­calls.

At the start of 1992 the fac­tory found the right road once again, by hir­ing EX-HRC tech­ni­cian Stu­art Shen­ton. By 1993 they were ready to rock – Sch­wantz at­tributes that year’s ti­tle to Shen­ton, more than any­one else.

Af­ter Sch­wantz re­tired mid­way through 1995, Suzuki once again got lost in the wilder­ness. Over the next three and a half sea­sons they won just two races. Re­demp­tion came in the shape of for­mer Team Roberts en­gi­neer War­ren Will­ing and a new rider, King Kenny’s son Kenny Roberts Ju­nior.

They got it just about good enough for a rider who based his rid­ing tech­nique on pre­ci­sion and rep­e­ti­tion. In 2000 Roberts Ju­nior won the world ti­tle, beat­ing Rossi into sec­ond place. KRJR raced the RGV for the last time in 2001 – the year be­fore the Mo­togp four-strokes ar­rived – but by then the NSR and YZR had once again jumped ahead.

‘The bike wasn’t right. It was a load of s****’ KEVIN SCH­WANTZ

Sch­wantz: win­ning de­spite the RGV rather than be­cause of it? It was an an­i­mal

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