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Suzuki were quick to produce the close firing order engine but unlike the Honda, the Suzuki was not designed from the ground up as a short firing engine. As Yamaha found, closing up the firing order exacerbated reliability problems and Tonge remembers that they were pretty dire. " We had a gross crankshaft weakness in '92 and when we tried to close up the firing order it just used to snap crankshafts. We snapped about 15 or 17 crankshafts with Doug."

"Doug was worse than Kevin because he would rev the heart out of it especially changing down. He would always be reving , 13,2 or 13,6 if it was leaned out well enough. On the he would be 14,4 all the time with a record 15,6 when he missed a gear. Kevin never revved it as hard changing up or down. In history he's had a fewlike when he passed Wayne coming into the stadium at Hockenheim but he's normally not quite so bad."

 

Tonge makes the point that central to the development of the RGV500 has been the development of the crankshaft, balancing weight, strength and reliability. "It is quite funny to consider the development of the crank over the years. It got bigger bearings, different crank case material, different discs that flexed and when we got those rigid the crank itself flexed and broke the pin.. We had rivets fall apart. The factory were welding bands on to get the crank mass up in '91 and the band broke, a bit of material went up through the transfer and stuck a ring otherwise he would have won Mugello. We used only to be able to run a crank for even less than 200 kilometers. 200 to 400 kilometers was brilliant in '92."

Working with the big bang engine and the reliability problems was all that occupied the team I 1992. Tonge reports that the handling was being improved. "We were playing around with wheel stroke, shortening the stroke up, getting more wheel response out of the shock by the end of the year. In fact apart from the revision of the firing order the motor stayed pretty much the same through the '92 season."

The trials and tribulations of 1992 were worth going through though says Tonge, " All the bits we ended up with in '92 we kept for '93 and the reliability was sorted out completely. The bike just got a bit more front weight by moving the head stock 5mm further back. We could get even more if we ran different geometry. We went to '91 type steering geometry but the chassis didn't change at all in real physical terms, it gained a bit of stiffness that we added in the middle of he '92 season."

"The better suspension response we had got front and rear by improving the damping response was a big improvement. That, the sixteen and a half inch front wheels and a bit of more front weight rounded off the whole thing. The engine was a bit more refined in its response as well. The dual volume exhaust valve smoothed out delivery but there were other things that also improved response in fact there was quite a major improvement there."

Stuart Shenton had taken over fro Tonge as Kevin's race engineer for the '92 season and explained the shortcomings of the '92 machine had as he saw them. "Balance had been the biggest problem, not necessarily lack of front grip specifically but a lack of feeling that the rider required from the bike whether it be front grip, rear grip, edge grip. The sort of things that make the bike rideable. We did win one race and there were places where the bike worked but it wasn't really consistent."

"For '93 a lot of small things were changed, more of a tidying up operation. The potential was always there. There were a lot of small things that were not right and it took a lot of work to make the bike easier for Kevin to ride and do his job. We didn't change things so much as modified what was there, if you had laid the engineering drawing for one bike on top of the other they were not completely different. It was more of a case of some internal modifications to the suspension, increasing the stiffness, taking what was there and making it work properly. It was a subtle development."

The changes may have been subtle but the effect was very significant. "I think tht Yamaha always used to ork along those lines," said Shenton. "When Eddie was riding they never came out with anything radically different yet it was a very average easily ridable motorcycle and it did the job."


Michelin produced the sixteen and a half inch front tyre and that contributed. "One of the things with the sixteen and a half was that we started testing very early for the '93 season and Kevin decided that he liked that tyre from early on. That meant that any changes we made to the suspension or to the geometry was always around having that tyre in the bike. Things were developed alongside that tyre which seemed to work well for Kevin and Suzuki. We didn't race on the seventeen anywhere"

Almost the complete all around package there was just one area in which the Suzuki struggled a little compared with the Honda. "We were always down on acceleration,' Explained Shenton. "It lacked a little bit of grunt, top speed a little as well but we never really suffered there except for Hockenheim and the front straight at the Salzburgring. It was kind of strange there in Austria because the bike was really goo d up the hill but were were getting kind of killed down the front there by the Honda. I've never been able to put my finger on why that would be, it could be a bit of gearing and also there are a couple of corners going up the back.

"Our bike was better all around than the Yamaha at the beginning of the year but certainly at the end there wasn't a lot between the Yamaha and the Suzuki., once they got the Yamaha working. We made some small changes to the chassis geometry about two thirds of the way through the season which helped us but the engine remained virtually unchanged all year."

That does not mean the team was content just to leave the '93 bike unaltered. "By the end of the year there were things that were becoming common and compliant, things that Kevin needed to have worked out for '94."

One of the hey things that had been sorted out was the reliability and Shenton says that there are clear reasons for that. "I think the team has got more professional in the last couple of years, its down to good mechanics, preventive maintenance, the right approach from the team, looking after the bikes a little better than they have in the past and obviously there had been some improvements from the factory as well so it all came together to make a better package."

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