Monday, December 28, 2009

The 1993 Suzuki RGV500 is from an era when Grand Prix machines were beautiful like few before or since

The 1993 Suzuki RGV500 is from an era when Grand Prix machines were beautiful like few before or since. It's also a touchstone to a golden age of fabulous fag sponsorship, wild highsides and day-glo cool, an era that gave us Schwantz versus Rainey, vast power versus scant control and Mick Doohan v Honda's nasty NSR500.

In outright terms, the Suzuki RGV wasn't the fastest thing on the grid. On the all-important Honkenheim speed trap leaderboard, 1993 saw this bike, Kevin Schwantz's, languishing in eighth, some way behind the ballistic, 320km/h Rothmans Hondas. But it's all relative. Blessed with, by 500cc two-stroke standards, a degree of user-friendliness thanks to its twin exhaust power valves, the Suzuki RGV's V4 was potent enough and, under Schwants's aggressive instruction, bagged five wins on the way to the title that year.

For the 1993 GP season Suzuki found consistency with the Suzuki RGV - race weekends were finally about fine-tunning the jetting and set-up rather than fixing big problems.

Using much of the 1992 bike helped - the bike's chassis and engine cases went largely unchanged.

The frame uses two spars of box-section aluminum to span the gap between the adjustable headstock and the machined-from-solid rear section at the swingarm pivot. According to Suzuki, its geometry was used on the first SRAD GSX-R750, the 1996 Suzuki 750T. The swingarm has a beauty that defies description and seems impossible for what is a lump of metal. The banana-shaped beast is also box-section aluminum and pivots on needle roller bearings.

When former Suzuki GP team manager Garry Taylor retired, the factory offered him a bike of his choice on permanent loan. The answer came quickly, 'It's the 1993 championship-winning bike and to my mind, it doesn't get much better that that,' says Taylor. 'The bike was in our old building for years, up on a plinth - this is exactly how it finished the '93 season. They got it running for the first time in years a few months ago and it it was just great to see the old girl running again, the noise really is something else.

By modern standards it's not very complicated. You don't need computers to get it started. The powerpack for the power valves was knackered and the gearbox oil had jellified. We always ran the bike on street Motul oil so we popped out for some of that and fitted fresh tyres, Michelin thought it might be wise. That really was it.

'To be honest, anything to do with Kevin has a special place for me, even if it hadn't been the championship-winning bike, I'd walk through fire for Kevin, he's just and extraordinary guy' Gary Taylor said.

The Suzuki RGV500 was Suzuki's entry in 500 cc Grand Prix motorcycle racing. It won its first 500 cc championship in 1993 in the hands of Kevin Schwantz, who beat both Wayne Rainey and Mick Doohan to the prize. This was the most successful period in the motorcycle's history. The Suzuki suited Schwantz's riding style, as he often pushed beyond the limit of the machine, which often lead to Schwantz crashing as often as he won.

The Suzuki was always slower than its opposition, as both the Yamaha and especially the Honda were much faster in a straight line; to compensate for this, Schwantz set the RGV up, so it would compensate in the braking zones, and in the corners, allowing the Suzuki to slipstream the machines in front. This style of riding was famously quoted by Schwantz stating that he would "See God, then brake".

Other riders failed to adapt their style to the Suzuki, talent such as: Doug Chandler and Alex Barros. However many did manage the Suzuki well such as Daryl Beattie who finished second overall in 1995 and Niall Mackenzie.

Kenny Roberts Jr was another who was successful on the RGV. After finishing second in 1999, Roberts became Suzuki's last 500 cc World Champion in 2000.

Specifications Suzuki RGV500-Gamma XR-B1 (2001)
Engine Type:    Two-stroke, water cooled V4
Bore/Stroke:    54.0 × 54.5 mm
Displacement:    499.3cc
Maximum Power:    more than 185PS at 12,500rpm
Inlet System:    Crankcase Reed Valve
Carburettor:    Keihin
Exhaust System:    AETC (Automatic Exhaust Timing Control)
Piston:    Cast, one piston ring
Cylinder:    Aluminium, Suzuki 'SCEM' plating
Lubrication System:    Fuel/Oil premix
Ignition System:    CDI
Sparking Plugs:    NGK
Clutch:    Dry multi-plate
Transmission:    six-speed constant mesh
Drive Chain:    RK520 or DID 520
Chassis Type:    Twin-Spar aluminium, Suzuki extrusions
Suspension    Front: Ohlins inverted-type telescopic fork
Rear: Ohlins with Suzuki link
Wheels:    Front and Rear: 17 inches
Brake System:    Brembo - Front: Twin discs, Carbon or Steel
Rear: Single disc, steel
Wheelbase:    1400 mm
Dry Weight:    approx 130 KG

Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix is the premier championship of motorcycle road racing currently divided into three distinct classes: 125cc, Moto 2 (250cc was replaced by the new Moto2, 600cc class in 2010), and MotoGP. Grand prix motorcycles are purpose-built racing machines that are neither available for general purchase nor can be legitimately ridden on public roads; this contrasts with the various production categories of racing, such as the Superbike World Championship, that feature modified versions of road-going motorcycles available to the public.


A Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix was first organized by the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM) in 1949. The commercial rights are owned by Dorna Sports. Teams are represented by the International Road Racing Teams Association (IRTA) and manufacturers by the Motorcycle Sport Manufacturers Association (MSMA). Rules and changes to regulations are decided between the four entities, with Dorna casting a tie-breaking vote. In cases of technical modifications, the MSMA can unilaterally enact or veto changes by unanimous vote among its members. These 4 entities compose the Grand Prix Commission.

There have traditionally been several races at each event for various classes of motorcycles, based on engine size, and one class for sidecars. Classes for 50cc, 80cc, 125cc, 250cc, 350cc, and 500cc solo machines have existed over time, and 350cc and 500cc sidecars. Up through the 1950s and most of the 1960s, four-stroke engines dominated all classes. In the 1960s, two-stroke engines began to take root in the smaller classes. By the 1970s, two-strokes completely eclipsed the four-strokes in all classes. In 1979, Honda made an attempt to return the four-stroke to the top class with the NR500, but this project failed, and in 1983, even Honda was winning with a two-stroke 500. The 50cc class was replaced by an 80cc class, then the class was dropped entirely in the 1990s, after being dominated primarily by Spanish and Italian makes. The 350cc class vanished in the 1980s. Sidecars were dropped from World Championship events in the 1990s (see superside), reducing the field to 125s, 250s, and 500s.

I am about to build a model of Kevin Schwantz's 1993 Suzuki RGV500 Grand Prix bike. This is a highly detailed model conversion,known as a TransKit,  by a company called Studio 27 and uses the Tamiya Suzuki 1999 model  as a donor kit for some parts (wheels, engine etc) to put with the 'transkit'.

I have ordered the Tamiya 'donor kit' which should be here in about a week, until then I have to prepare the parts I do have to be ready for when it arrives.

Kevin Schwantz was my all time favourite Grand Prix rider and this is a model I have always wanted to do, and I will be updating this page with information and pictures as the model kit progresses so be sure to check back regularly.

The picture below shows the bodywork and front mudguard prior to be prepared for painting. The metal mudguard has since been glued together using a 2 part epoxy glue as normal plastic model glue will not hold the 2 metal pieces together. The other parts have also had any flash and rough edges removed and then washed clean before coating with surface primer.

1 comment:

  1. Where did you buy the Studio 27 Transkit? Please send details to me here: raybattersby at email dot com.