A couple of e-mail have suggested that we are out to lunch discussing Suzuki’s GSX-R1000 in the context of the 2002 GP rule change. They are correct that the GP rules involve racing prototypes, and will not consist of street-based motorcycles. We recognize this, and have called Suzuki’s 988cc GSX-R1000 a “test bed” for the GP design. Indeed, one Suzuki engineer has stated Kenny Roberts, Jr. will ride the GSX-R1000 to get used to four-stroke power delivery before the 2002 season starts. The GSX-R1000 will also be raced in AMA Formula Extreme next year, as well as other classes in Europe and Japan.
An interesting question is whether the prototype four-stroke designs raced in GPs in the year 2002 will in any way be reflected in street bikes. We clearly think they will. Motorcycle manufacturers are ultimately in the business of selling motorcycles, not spending money on racing motorcycles. The racing part has to feed the selling part or it serves no purpose.
Suzuki recognizes (as Honda, Kawasaki, Yamaha and others will also recognize) that street bikes resembling in any fashion their racing machines will be more likely to sell. Let’s assume for a minute that Honda develops a GP prototype in a v-four configuration. Do you think Honda will sell a v-four street bike of similar displacement? They would be foolish not to — they would be missing out on the opportunity to capitalize on their racing investment with the sale of a model that leads customers to believe that prototype technology is being passed down to the street rider.
Some of the prototypes will surely be exotic. Oval cylinders (from Honda, of course, which owns the patent), pneumatic valves, and other cost-prohibitive technology (when considered in the street bike context) will undoubtedly appear in the racing machines. But you should expect to see “replica” models for sale to the street rider — incorporating at least the basic engine configuration and cosmetics, if nothing else.
The GSX-R1000 is more than a replica — it is based largely on the chassis and engine designed to win World Superbike races, the GSX-R750. A less powerful machine, which (in modified racing form) is expected to turn lap times close to those of current GP machinery.