Interview: Suzuki aim high

Published: 22 October 2016

GSX-R1000 chief engineer says new superbike can be top dog.

"Our GSX-R1000 engine matches the competition’s power figures and makes more torque," says Shinichi Sahara, Chief Engineer for the new Suzuki GSX-R1000 models.

The quietly spoken engineering guru has been Project Leader and Technical Manager for the MotoGP team – mainly in the V4 era – but also at beginning of the inline-four project, and knows what was needed to get the GSX-R back to the top of the superbike class.

MCN: Last year the GSX-R1000 was shown as a prototype, now it is the final production version what has changed?

SS: “Almost every part has been upgraded or optimised. The main work has been within the engine to meet performance expectations, but also the electronics.”

MCN: Why the change in the level of electronic assists?

SS: “Last year the plan was for the IMU [Inertial Measurement Unit] to only be on the R model, not the standard bike. But we decided to put the IMU on both models as it was easier to develop the two versions together rather than have very different specifications.”

MCN: How long has the new GSX-R1000 been in development?

SS: “This is a very difficult question to answer as the actual start point is hard to say. Many years ago we started discussions about the bike to build up a base philosophy, and we knew we needed to make a fundamental change to the bike’s engineering. We spent a long time discussing with the engine, chassis and electrical teams to decide on a direction. Once we had agreed a philosophy the bike only took around three years to develop.” 

MCN: That seems very fast.

SS: “Yes, but for the marketing man it was not fast enough!”

MCN: Did you ever consider a V4 or uneven firing order?

SS: “Both a V4 and inline-four have their own advantages and disadvantages and my experience with a V4 told me that for a production bike an inline four is a better option. Honestly speaking, it is also good for the MotoGP and street bike to have a similar engine. We simulated many engine configurations, including an uneven firing order inline-four, but the conventional firing order was the best solution. An uneven firing order needs a heavy balancer shaft and stronger engine cases where the conventional engine is lighter and makes better power characteristics throughout its entire rev range.”

MCN: How much MotoGP influence is there in the GSX-R1000?

SS: “When I was MotoGP Project Leader I had many secrets from the project in my head. When I was asked to develop the GSX-R1000 road bike I no longer needed to keep them secret…”

MCN: How did it compare during development against the competition?

SS: “On the dyno we had the highest peak power, but this is just one figure. The more important characteristic is the midrange and the GSX-R has more torque and midrange than its rivals thanks to its Variable Valve Timing (VVT) system. GSX-R is known for its torque as well as its power, so we have not thrown away this characteristic.”

MCN: Is this due to the VVT?

SS: “Yes, that is one factor. But also the new exhaust system helps boost midrange performance.”

MCN: Why develop an R version?

SS: “The GSX-R1000 has two different target users. One wants high performance with an affordable price, the other wants the ultimate GSX-R.”

MCN: Will we ever see a MotoGP replica for the road from Suzuki?

SS: “That’s my dream… There is no reason to say no.”

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