usa Vs uk =500


Garry Taylor was one of the few people trying to keep Suzuki's 500 effort alive after the factory quit it's full time Grand Prix effort at the end of 1983. Along with Martin Ogbourne, the chief race engineer at Heron, the British Suzuki importer, he believed that it was worth doing what they could with the old disc valve square four RG500 engines just to keep Suzuki involved.

Ogbourne was a survivor from the championship winning days of Barry Sheene and the heady times when the likes of Sheene, John Williams, Pat Hennen and Tom Heron were the people to beat on the 500 and 680 Suzuki's the fastest machines in the World. Though somewhat cynical and torn between jaundice and enthusiasm, Ogbourne's experience was invaluable through a very difficult period for the British based Suzuki team.

Taylor himself an ex amateur car racer and international fencer, was newer to the sport and brim full of enthusiasm, he remembers that the support for the continued racing effort came from right at the top at Heron. "I think the fact that Heron were able to Keep Suzuki's name in racing, keep resources and key people around, that made a big contribution to Suzuki's return. I think it would have been incredibly difficult for Suzuki to have come back if Heron had not kept the team going. The driving force that was Managing Director Denys Rohan, with support from Chief executive John Norman, it was them who kept the faith really"

There were riders who rode Suzuki's in that lean period between 1983 and 1987 who suffered from the machines lack of competitiveness, Rob McElnea is one who might have starred at World Championship level had he joined Suzuki at the right time. Suzuki decided to build a new reed valve V four, an engines with a specification that might challenge the Hondas and Yamahas then dominating the class.

Taylor has always on the look out for new riding talent to keep afloat the British Suzuki team and news of the new engine undergoing development added impetus to that search. When Taylor and Ogbourne heard the name Kevin Schwantz the new 500 was still some way away. "We noticed Kevin about a year, a year and a half before we actually managed to get him on a bike," recalls Taylor. "We expressed an interest in him to Suzuki US and asked if we could borrow him and were told in no uncertain terms, no we couldn't. This was beforehe had done the Match Races, we had bee talking to our colleagues at Suzuki US and they were raving about this young man who was incredibly quick and we had been keeping an eye on his results. But they weren't going to let us have him at all and word came back from the factory to leave him alone.

"Then he got invited to do the Transatlantic Match Races. I had a word with Barry Sheene who was doing the TV commentary at the time and told him to keep his eye on this bloke. I don't think that Barry was particularly interested at first because Barry was not a great lover of American road racers but he certainly did make an expression. I think he just amazed everyone."

"It was just about the only thing that really discouraged me about trying to ride the 500. Actually at Assen I couldn't have done too bad because I was fifth or sixth into the first turn coming off the third row." Kevin had qualified twelfth almost four seconds off Wayne Gardner's pole time but Assen is one of the longest Grand Prix circuits. At the time it was 7.69 km and has since been shortened to 6.05. He was only three tenths slower than Dave Petersen, riding the Gallina Suzuki and quicker than Paul Lewis. The square fours were long in the tooth.

"Spa is an incredible track to go to for just your second Grand Prix. If I remember correctly it was dry all through practice and then Sunday morning we got to the track and it was raining and it was obviously set for the day, it was pissing down and thick fog. I was still on the square four of course and I knew I couldn't race anywhere near the front in the dry but seeing the rain I thought it was my big chance."

"I was using Dunlop then on the Yoshimura Superbike and at Donington the wets had been a big big deciding factor in how well we went. I don't remember exactly why but I don't think we got to run them on the Sunday morning. Peter Ingley was Mr. Dunlop then and he decided that we should use the new radial rear, hand cut to a rain tyre."

"It was terrible, I believe Didier, who knows Spa as its his own back yard, and I were the only Dunlop riders to finish the race. I fell off on the sighting lap, coming out of the hairpin. I came out, accelerated and the back just overtook me, I slid down the track almost to my starting spot on the grid. I jumped up, picked up the bike, it had knocked one of the carburettors off~ they were on the side of the square four. The guys tore the fairing off, got the carbs back on. I missed the warm up lap."

"I almost crashed about every lap coming out of the hairpin and a few other places. I really feel that if we'd have run good tyres, the old tyres that we knew, we stood a really good chance of finishing well, but we didn't Kevin finished tenth, Didier de Radigues was seventh on the Honda engined Chevalier

"My third ride on the 500 that year was at Misano, the last race of the season. At that stage I had decided to go with Michelins. I forget exactly how it came about but I think I had talked to Yoshimura and we were going to use Michelins in 1987 in the States so I felt that I might as well go ahead and start getting used to them."

"So we swapped to Michelins for Misano. Paul Lewis had been using Michelins all year but Mackenzie was still on his Silverstone Armstrong contract so he had to use the Dunlops." Niall Mackenzie had his first outing on the 500 Suzuki at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone and had ridden it again in Sweden. Misano was his third outing and he was looking for a factory contract for the '87 season.

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