MasterBike 2010: Suzuki GSX-R1000

Soft suspension setup let the Suzuki GSX-R1000 down at Motorland, but a strong engine and great stability helped it to the third fastest trap speed.

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There was no official factory test rider on hand to help dial in the Suzuki GSX-R1000, so Motociclismo MasterBike's Master of Ceremonies Victor Gancedo asked me to help with chassis setup. I rolled out to get a feel for the bike and three laps later came in and requested a lot more rear-spring preload and some additional rebound. The support techs just smiled and said, "You can ride a couple more laps, okay?" Uh, okay...

So there I was, exiting Turn 16 spinning and sliding almost like with the Hondabut getting a lot less traction feel. I also ended up unintentionally rushing a lot of corner entries because I couldn't get the GSX-R to downshift unless I deliberately pulled the clutch lever all the way to the grip. That heavy-steering drama made me break my first sweat of practice day, even though the ambient temp was still in the 40s. Time for a rest and a Red Bull recharge.

Come timing day, nothing much had changed. Yeah, the Suzuki was fast, and soft rear suspension kept the GSX-R super-stable on the straights, but I still couldn't get it to turn. Three turns of rear-spring preload would have helped the Suzuki turn like a world-class sportbike rather than like a VW bus; as it was, I did my best to square up corners to get the thing turned and off the deck. Reading rear grip was also made tough by the squishy suspension—which further caused the front to push in the important fourth-gear left-hand Turn 11. The necessary full-clutch-pull downshifts made concentration-consuming corner entries laborious, and made me more passenger than Master of this vessel.

Properly set up suspension is a big reason bikes win races and MasterBike. This unsorted Suzuki suffered under me and my lap time reflected it: 2:04.509. Then again, Motociclismo Spain's Óscar Peña set his second-best time (2:04.488) on the Suzuki, saying he felt very comfortable on the GSX-R and that its power was easy to use. Could it be because he races a SuperStock Suzuki 1000? Certainly can't hurt, but Óscar also has a much more "Euro" style of riding than I do, meaning he tends to carry a more arcing, flowing line than my get-it-in, get-it-turned and drive-it-out method.

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