1981/82 Suzuki RGB 500 MK7/8 F1 GP Race Bike For Sale by Auction
To be offered at the Silverstone Classic Auction on Saturday 27th July in The Wing building at the Silverstone Circuit, NN12 8TN. Viewing is available from 9am on Friday 26th July and the morning of the sale day. For further images and information please click on the lot listing link to get in touch with classic car specialist Guy Lees-Milne of Silverstone Auctions.
+buyer's premium of 15% including VAT @ 20%
~In the 1970s, the Suzuki RG500 played a key role in bringing about two-stroke dominance in Moto GP
~One of a very limited supply of these race-only bikes
~The F1 (Moto GP-spec) bikes were only supplied to chosen teams/privateers with demonstrable funding/experience
~1982 was the first year Suzuki fitted fully floating mono-shock suspension
~This Mk7 sports magnesium crankcases and carburettors, a stepped square engine, and a dry clutch
~A lovely example of an F1 customer race bike
Back in 1973, Japanese bike builder Suzuki introduced the G-54 concept, the precursor of the XR14 and RG500 motorcycles. The 'G' stood for Grand Prix use only, whilst the number 54, unfathomably, stood for the year in which the bike was planned to make its competition debut, 1974. It was created by Makoto Suzuki as the tool for the bike builder’s return to Grand Prix, this time in the 'premier' 500 cc class. At the time, the Japanese had been out of the series as a result of regulation changes for several years and were only competing in lower capacity classes but the signing of British racer, Barry Sheene, in 1972 and the undoubted potential of the forthcoming RG500 meant that Suzuki were once again going to be major players.
It was 44 years ago this year, in the summer of 1975, that Barry Sheene won the Dutch TT at Assen aboard an RG500, claiming Suzuki’s first-ever 500cc GP victory. Before the first 25-bike batch of Mark 1 RG500s went on sale for the 1976 season, the paddocks of the Continental Circus had been packed with a selection of arcane bikes; 4-stroke Italian twins and multis, British singles, and the prototypes of the soon-to-be-supreme Japanese 2-strokes, headed by over-bored 350 Yamahas and the first-generation air-cooled customer 500s, like the TR500 Suzuki twins and Kawasaki H1R triples. Against this transitional group, factory 4-cylinder hardware like the MV Agusta and YZR500 Yamaha had an easy time.
But the RG500 changed all that. Though it’s become something of a cliché to stamp the Suzuki as the Manx Norton of the 2-stroke Grand Prix era, that’s exactly what it was. For a full decade, from 1976-1986, the rotary-valve, square-four packed GP grids around the world. To underline the immediate success enjoyed by the eager customers awaiting the bike’s debut, just look at the 1976 World Championship, the first year the production RG500 was available. With 58 bikes delivered to customers, no fewer than the first 12 riders in the final 500cc points table were Suzuki-mounted, including such illustrious privateer names as Agostini, Read and Lucchinelli. It would remain a competitive privateer option right up until the end of the production run in 1990, winning Suzuki seven consecutive 500GP Manufacturer’s World titles from 1976-1982, including four riders crowns in 1976-1977 with Barry Sheene and two more for Marco Lucchinelli in 1981 and Franco Uncini in 1982.
However, getting hold of an RG500, particularly in the early days, was no simple task as they were only offered by the factory to independent racers of means and prospective buyers needed to provide significant backing and a racer’s resume in order to qualify for the relatively few bikes on offer.
Designed purely as a racer, the RGB was created around the now ubiquitous square four, 500cc two-stroke power plant. Consisting of two parallel-twins mated together, the twin-crank engine utilized disk induction (as opposed to reed valves) on each bank of cylinders and whilst the earliest engines resembled a cube, the more evolved editions (like the Mk7 offered here) featured stepped cylinders, with the rear bank elevated over the forward block. This presents a visually unique mechanical view while offering cooling, weight placement and packaging advantages. Liquid cooling was standard to minimise tolerances and maximise horsepower and the steel chassis offered a trick anti-dive front fork, fully floating single-shock rear suspension and a (very) necessary steering damper.
Power was no problem for the new, liquid-cooled engine, but the same distinctive 'personality traits' evident in the smaller racing two-strokes were inevitably scaled up for the square-four. Whilst four-strokes generally deliver their power in a smooth, progressive manner, two-strokes are notoriously on/off devices, a spluttering mess when “off the pipe” with a rider-focussing sudden arrival on to the narrow spikey powerband, characteristics only exacerbated by the dramatic displacement increase. Early bikes ate chains, tyres and other consumables at an alarming rate, although by the time the Mk 7 and eight arrived, development had eventually cured (eased) these problems.
On offer here is a 1981/1982 Suzuki RGB 500 Mk7/8 F1 GP Race Bike, a genuine “Competition Client” GP bike offered by the factory to selected buyers. Every year Suzuki offered private race teams a simpler version of the bike used in the 500cc World Championship by its factory team. This version did not have all of the latest evolutions that the factory team had, but it was close enough to be used by private teams in World, European and National championships.
This immaculate RG is a Mk7 dating from 1981 updated the following year with the factory Mk8 mods and finished in the classic Heron Suzuki/ DAF Trucks colour scheme as an homage to Barry Sheene's 1983 Mk 8 GP bike.
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