In the Team Classic Suzuki Katana’s tender three year life it’s been crashed, set on fire, finished on podiums, travelled all over Europe, Down Under to Phillip Island and the Classic TT.
Paraded and raced on the roads, track and in the European Classic Endurance championship, it’s munched through its nine lives by petulantly braking more engines than is healthy. But despite its barge-like dimensions, heavy, wrist-crunching throttle and brutal power delivery, the 150bhp monster has bullied its way around racetracks faster than it has any right to, by the likes of James Whitham, Steve Parrish, John Reynolds, Guy Martin, Pete Boast, Richard Steadman, Al Fagan, Jay Lawrence...and me.
MCN were there at the beginning, as we followed its journey from sketch to its final build, by Nathan Colombi for Team Classic Suzuki - a project conceived to promote Suzuki UK’s then fledgling and now hugely successful Vintage Parts program.
We shook it down at Rockingham on a chilly April Tuesday in 2017 and raced it for the first time a month later at Donington, when Whitham crashed out on the first lap of our four hour endurance race…
I rode it again at Aragon later that year - one of the most memorable meetings I’ve ever been a part of, racing from day to burnt orange dusk and into the night. Up to third, Boasty crashed out so close to the end of the race we were looking to see where to go for the podium. It was a long ride home from Spain the next day on my Suzuki GSX-R1000 long termer.
It also blew up when we were fighting for the lead at Donington in May ‘18 and last weekend, at the final round of the 2019 European Classic Endurance championship at Misano, teammate Steadman crashed out of third (we were leading at one point), but after the marshals extinguished the resulting carb fire and we kicked it straight back in the pits, we went on to finish 10th - the first time I’ve seen the chequered flag in four outings on the mighty Kat.
The band of merry men who run the big Suzuki keep it in perfect shape between outings and in service on track, despite the best efforts of the riders to break it and even when the chips are down they’re wearing big smiles. Endurance teams are like big families and none are as close-knit, or make you feel so welcome as Team Classic Suzuki.
And now this is the end. The Katana has done what it set out to do: flying the flag for Suzuki Vintage Parts and now it’s being retired and given a well deserved rest. You’ll still see it from time to time at bike shows and classic parade and if you do meet it, give it a stroke - it won’t bite...actually, scrub that. Stand well clear, it’s an angry so-and-so, but that’s why we love it so much.
Images: Jamie Morris
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