Suzuki Racing | Motorcycle Racing History
Suzuki started racing in Japan at several of the big hill climb events in the 1950s. The Asama race in particular is where the Suzuki team had some good showings. The machines were half motorcycle and half bicycle, but showed even then the famous Suzuki brand of innovation. The double sprocket gear system of the early “power free” models, in particular, was quite special for that era.
It wasn’t until 1960, though, that Suzuki really got its start in racing with the venerable Isle Of Man TT. The first race attempt was not great (15th place), and the European marques dominated the event. But the little twin-cylinder 125cc Suzuki (Colleda) did in fact race, and most importantly a seed was sewn. Suzuki got its first title in 1962 in the 500cc class, and things started looking up from there. By 1965, the 125cc title was won by Suzuki and more was yet to come. Scattered success in 50cc machines and select races with everything from 125s to 250s saw continual improvement.
Suzuki’s entry in to the sport of Motocross came about in 1964 when they entered a bike ridden by Kazuo Kubo in the Swedish 250cc Motocross Grand Prix. Suzuki had a tough time in the motocross world, which led them back to the drawing board. Swedish rider Olle Pererson signed on with the Suzuki motocross program in 1967 and progress was made. All the hard work paid off in 1972 when Belgian Joel Robert won the World Championship on a very trick Suzuki. Road racing saw a lot of success during this era as well with numerous wins and continued evolution of the Suzuki motorcycles.
But it was with the two-stroke machines that Suzuki achieved their greatest successes, both on and off the track. In October 1969 they opened another factory at Toyama to produce small-capacity two-stroke machines.
The RG500 era saw Barry Sheene win two world championships and dominate GP road racing. In the meantime, motocross was being dominated, first by Belgian Joel Robert and then by fellow countryman Roger Decoster. The two riders had a virtual lock on the Motocross GP circuit.
In the United States, Suzuki formed an alliance with Hideo “Pops” Yoshimura and a new dynasty was formed in road racing. Together with the innovative and powerful Suzuki machines, Yoshimura and Suzuki became a force in American Superbike racing. In 1979, they got out the broom! Team Suzuki/Yoshimura racers Ron Pierce, Wes Cooley and Dave Emde finished one-two-three at Daytona. This incredible victory was the first time a team swept the podium in an AMA Superbike race, and it was just the start of things to come. From 1978 through 1981, Yoshimura and Suzuki won four straight Daytona Superbike races, which had never been done before. In the meantime, Wes was on and won the 1979 and 1980 AMA Superbike titles. The Suzuki/Yoshimura legend was being carved out one win at a time.
Suzuki domination was capped in 1982 with World Championships in 500cc Road Racing, 125cc Motocross, and Suzuki’s sixth 500cc Motocross GP championship.
In America, the Suzuki rider list read like a who’s who of racing. Dave Aldana, Steve Crevier, Miguel Duhamel, Dave Emde, Scott Gray, Jamie Hacking, Donald Jacks, Jamie James, Tom Kipp, Britt Turkington, Fred Merkel, Pascal Picotte, Ron Pierce, Doug Polen, Jason Pridmore, Steve Rapp, Scott Russell, Dave Sidowski, Kevin Schwantz, Jay Springsteen, Thomas Stevens, Mat Mladin, Ben Spies, and many others raced Suzuki/Yoshimura motorcycles to wins and glory.
Meanwhile, In Motocross and Supercross, the success of European riders like Joel Robert, Roger Decoster, Harry Everts, Gerit Wolsink, etc., was mirrored by American riders like Tony DiStefano, Mark Barnett, Kent Howerton, George Holland, Brian Myerscough, Alan King, Guy Cooper, Mike Larocco, Bob Hannah, Johnny O’Mara, Ezra Lusk, Larry Ward, Tim Ferry, Chad Reed, and Ryan Dungey, to name a few.
In Road Racing, Suzuki has ruled the modern era. Suzuki won the Superbike Championship in 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. This unprecedented run speaks volumes of Suzuki performance, the team, and the riding abilities of Mat Mladin and Ben Spies.
IN ATV racing, Suzuki (“First on Four Wheels”) was the first to develop the modern four-wheeler and has raced them to much success at the hands of riders like Gary Denton. In the modern era, a new dynasty has been built. Digger Doug Gust, Jeremiah Jones, Chad Wienen and Dustin Wimmer have all made a mark in Pro ATV racing for Suzuki. Wimmer in particular has won two titles in a row in 2008 and 2009 and is the man to beat in AMA Pro ATV Motocross.
For 2010, Wimmer carries on the Championship tradition of Yoshimura/Suzuki ATV racing. He will be the man to beat and the holder of that big number one plate. He’s still the same nice kid that he’s always been but there is a difference. When you look in his eyes it reminds you of something. It’s a look of hunger… like a shark.
Chris Borich rode his Suzuki QuadRacer to the GNCC ATV title, thus completing the circle of Suzuki ATV domination.
The 2009 race season was an amazing one for Suzuki, taking the championship in six different race series.
For 2010 Suzuki looks to continue and to build on its rich legacy of racing and winning. There is no better way to showcase the technology of the brand. There also is no better statement of the commitment Suzuki has to racing going forward. Racing is after all an integral part of what Suzuki is as a company, and Suzuki is very proud of this.