Suzuki enjoyed great mileage out of their first GP 500 machine. The XR14, and its production version the RG500, lived on for some time, its square-four engine layout proving to be competitive well into the 80s. Suzuki had officially withdrawn its factory team in 1983 and with that move so ended the development of the early 70s design. Yamaha revealed its first V-four, the OW61 in 1983, Honda quickly followed suit while Suzuki, effectively unable to develop a new machine, stayed faithful to the square concept, albeit joining the reed valve ranks in 1985 with the XR70.
For 1986 an all-new Suzuki emerged, the XR71, this time a screaming V just like the other two Japanese combatants, the chassis differing little from the last of the square-four however and performance wasn’t staggering. The Suzuki engine was very similar to the Yamaha V4 but the two crankshafts output their power directly on to the clutch basket, unlike the Yams jackshaft arrangement meaning the formers cranks spun in the same direction, causing much in balance in the process.
1987 saw a much revamped XR72, but still Suzuki struggled to compete with the best and the end of that year saw them fail to make it into the top ten of the championship, the first time that the manufacturer had been absent from the top slot since 1972.
Much work was completed over the winter and a full onslaught was planned for 1988 with the XR73. This new machine needed a new breed of rider, enter Kevin Schwantz, for some time the American had been Suzuki’s favoured son and the team was completed with the addition of Rob McElnea. Schwantz had a bevy of talented teammates, but none used the RGV to greater effect than he, somehow the Suzuki V4 series suited the Americans wild style and the pair proved to be a constant thorn in the side of other throughout the next 6 seasons.
Rob thought the new machine to be way off the pace and said so to the Suzuki bosses before the first race of the season, clearly he didn’t share his concerns with Schwantz and the American rider went on to win the race. That wasn’t the new machines only win in 88, Schwantz won a very wet German GP too and the team did stay consistent and the total points tally saw Kevin in 8th place and McElnea in 10th.
For 89 Schwantz was joined by another Brit, Ron Haslam donned a Pepsi suit to race the Suzuki and the team faired so muh better. Schwantz finished the season in 4th place and Haslam 8th. Kevin suffered 6 DNFs during that season and would have won the championship had the machine been more reliable.
It was similar story for 1990 too, Schwantz, 2nd at the end of the year, again failing to finish in 4 races while World Champ Wayne Rainey finished all but one race. By now the Suzuki factory team had become a force to be reckoned with and was able to react quickly to the demands of modern racing, as soon as Honda took to the track with its first Big Bang engine the XR engine was redesigned and emerged with a similar firing order, many weeks before Yamaha could respond with its take on the idea.
Schwantz as never out of the top four in each year and finally took the 500cc championship in 1993 on the XR79. He did return with Suzuki for 94, and again finished 4th in the title hunt on the all-new XR84, but throughout his career the hard charging Texan had more than his fair share of injuries and finally called it a day early on in the 1995 season. During his GP career Schwantz had scored 25 class wins, all while riding for Suzuki.
Daryl Beattie took the XR85 to an impressive 2nd in the 1995 title hunt but was never quite up to taking it off Mick Doohan on the Honda NSR500.
Suzuki RGV500 Specifications
- Engine; Liquid cooled two stroke V-Four reed valve
- Capacity; 498cc
- Bore/stroke; 56 x 50.7mm
- Power; 195bhp @ 13500rpm
- Torque; 75ft-lb @ 11200rpm
- Carburetion; 36mm flat slide Mikuni
- Transmission; 6-Speed dry clutch chain final drive
- Frame; Suzuki alloy beam
- Suspension; 42mm Kayaba telescopic forks, Kayaba single rear
- Brakes; 310mm carbon discs 6-piston AP calipers, 210mm disc 2-piston caliper
- Wheels; 3.50 x 17 6.00 x 17
- Weight; 135kgs
- Top speed; 195mph
- Wheelbase; 1420mm
- Fuel capacity; 24lts
Suzuki RGV500 XR75 Gallery
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