SUZUKI’S all-new GP four-stroke will be a surprise entrant to the new-look 2002 world championship series.
The Japanese factory initially said it would use 2002 as a development year for the bike code named the XRE0 when the project was unveiled at the Catalunya GP in the summer.
But impressive test results have convinced factory bosses to bring the schedule forward by 12 months and the bike will go head-to-head against rivals Honda and Yamaha at the season's opening race at Suzuka next April, ridden by 2000 champ Kenny Roberts.
The 990cc machine features a 60-degree, V4 motor with a single crankshaft and electronic fuel injection. It will be run in a chassis based on the design of the firm's RGV two-stroke 500 machine. Suzuki claims the bike will produce 210bhp at 14,000rpm.
Roberts and Spain's Sete Gibernau will both be given the task of making the bike competitive. The bike will remain in the colours of Telefonica MoviStar and the team will continue to be run out of Kent.
Kunio Arase, XRE0 project leader said: "Through the use of various Suzuki technologies we have been able to accelerate the development of the new machine to enable us to enter MotoGP series one year ahead of schedule.
"The new ultra-compact and lightweight XRE0 engine has exceeded power and efficiency targets and by combining our successful superbike and GP technologies we have a machine we believe will be capable of winning in the GP series. We are continuing to test the machine both on and off the track and rider feedback gives us great confidence that we will have a very competitive machine at the start of the season."
The team has broken its long-standing relationship with Michelin to run the XREO on Dunlop tyres. It has also drafted in top technicians from the factory WSB squad, with their wealth of experience in running four strokes on Dunlops, to further speed up development.
Roberts said: " It’s the most exciting news I’ve heard in a long time. I’m extremely pleased about Suzuki’s decision to move ahead with the four stroke plans.
" I believe this decision to aggressively change plans to race the four stroke bike shows their commitment to working towards more world championships.
" Grand Prix racing hasn’t seen the last of Suzuki or Kenny Roberts winning races and winning championships.
" I believe if we have a level playing field with our equipment there’s no doubt in my mind that the outcome will be in our favour. "