The Suzuki Factory officially pulled out og Grand Prix racing at the end of the 1983 season having won four World Championships with their square four disc valve RG500 Engine. The RG500 Dominated the class for not only if Suzuki have their all conquering factory effort but they sold very effective production versions to privateers who on occasion could even give the factory riders a fright.
Barry Sheene took the 500cc title in 1976 and '77 for the Heron Suzuki team run by the British importer. Then after three years of Kenny Roberts and the Yamaha Marco Lucchenelli stole the championship back for the Italian Gallina Suzuki Team in 1981 and Franco Uncini took it in '82 riding for the same squad. The factory stopped designing new machines but both the Heron and Gallina teams kept going with minor updates from Japan and development work of their own. The lack of significant factory development soon began to tell though and by the end of 1985 it was obvious that the Suzuki teams would have to give up completely if the factory did not produce a completely new engine.
Both Yamaha and Honda were winning with reed valve induction V fours and that basic configuration seemed essential for success. Suzuki started work on their reed valve V four and as a stop gap measure produced a reed valve version of the square four. They simply replaced the disc valves with reeds. Such a machine was raced in 1986 by Paul Lewis for the Heron Suzuki team and by Dave Peterson and Peir Francesco Chili for the Gallina team. Niall MacKenzie also had use of the reed valve engine when he rode for the Heron team oin several occasions in '86.
Somin Tonge was working for Lewis when Schwantz had his first outing on a 500 riding the ex Sheene disc valver at Mallory Park. "I was looking after Lewy but we were all involved. He would have won that but it was a bike just put together for that race and the throttle assembly fell apart. It had a stop on it that we used to Araldite in because it was just assembled from parts the Aralditing had never been done and the cables came out of the retainers.
"The factory square four reed valve was an XR70, they were just playing around with reed valves ready for the V-four. Kevin only rode the disc valver as far as I can remember. Lewy had an XR70 and so did Nial."
The factory were already working on the V four and the prototype was shipped to Europe, the Gallina team tested it at Rijeka no a private label test where it was riden by Dave Peterson and Austrailian Mal Campbell who was trying out for the Gallina team. The Gallina Team had one at Missano for the Grand Prix at the end of the year but didn't race it, MacKenzie tested the achine at Dinington Park. " It was very much in the prototype stage," recalls Tonge. "That is being tactful really. It had both cranks rotating in the same direction and it stayed like that through '87 and '88, it wasn't until '89 that they came out with the counter rotating cranks."
"When we got the V four bike in '87 the engine had evolved but it was still quite a few, well.a lot of steps behind the opposition in '87. It was the same way until '89 everything was big and chunky and overweight and not stiff enough. The engine necessitated rubber mounting, because of the layout it made a lot of vibration. Being rubber mounted, the engine didn't enhance the stiffness of the chassis. It was generally pretty primitive.
Kevin first raced the XR75 V four at the Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez, early in 1987. Tonge recalls that initial progress with the V four was slow. "They had been out of it for so long, they had cut back all their racing staff, their racing department was half a dozen people and things happened very slowly."
But the problem was not only back in Japan, the team at the race track was also small and inexperienced. "We didn't have any top guns on the bike so they didn't know what they wanted and we were new to it," admits Tonge frankly. "We didn't know what we were doing and which direction to go in. I wouldn't say that development really picked until they got more people hack into the race department in '88."
"When Kevin rode it, it was uncompetitive in '87 but on the right circuit, in the right conditions it wasn't too bad for then. He had a really good ride in Spain, qualified on the front row at Le Mans, then it rained and he fell off on the first lap and did the whole race without a footrest."
"1987 was a Heron run set-up and just a year to get going for the factory. Then they started full on for '88 with Kevin and Rob riding. The race department had more people, they got the right engine development people and it started rolling. The thing was still heavy but the power started coming."
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