Next to feature in Road Racing News Famous TT Marques series, is a member of Japan’s ‘Big Four’ two wheel producers, Suzuki.
We have to time travel back to the early 1950’s for when Suzuki first began producing motorcycles, as company founder Michio Suzuki took on fresh, enterprising new challenges.
Following Honda and Yamaha in venturing to the TT Races, in 1962 Suzuki first joined the TT winners circle as Ernst Degner secured 50cc race honours.
One year later Mitsui Itoh would go onto claim the 50cc race crown and become Japan’s first and to date only TT winner.
Additionally TT competition of 1963 would also see Hugh Anderson seal 125 class spoils for Suzuki, whilst the following year saw the iconic New Zealand racer make it three successive 50cc race titles for Suzuki.
Onto the 1970’s and after triumphs with Dieter Braun (1970 125 TT), Frank Whiteway (1970 Production 500 TT) and Stan Woods (1972 Production 500 TT), the 1973 TT festival would prove hugely momentous as Jack Findlay gave Suzuki their first blue riband Senior race victory.
Findlay’s triumph was the early beginnings of a incredible era of Senior class domination. From 1977 to 1984 Suzuki mounted riders claimed International road racing’s biggest prize.
Senior TT victors from 1977 through to 1984, were as follows:
Phil Read MBE (1977), Tom Herron (1978), Mike Hailwood (1979), his 14th and final TT victory, Graeme Crosby (1980), Mick Grant (1981), Norman Brown (1982) and Rob McElnea (1983-1984).
Whilst sustained Senior success was the obvious highlights from the 70’s and 80’s, another high point was sweeping the Production class crowns in 1986, with Gary Padgett, Trevor Nation and Phil Mellor claiming respective class C, A and B victories.
Now established amongst the TT’s greatest manufacturers, the 1990’s proved tougher for Suzuki who were largely in the shadow of Yamaha and in particular Honda.
Hector & Philip Neill’s TAS Racing squad though was about to turn Suzuki’s fortunes round within the noughties.
The TT’s of 2002, 2003 and 2004 secured Suzuki combined no less than 10 TT victories including three continuous Senior triumphs with David Jefferies and Adrian Archibald.
1000cc success continued through the 2000’s with Bruce Anstey and Cameron Donald adding their names to Suzuki’s racing folklore.
At a glance achievements accomplished by the Antipodean duo included four successive Superstock race crowns, a 1-2 finish within the 2008 Superbike TT and an unofficial lap record in 2009 of 131.457 mph.
Since the 2000’s, Suzuki has enjoyed to date just one more solo TT triumph but a major one at that, 2017 Senior TT success with Michael Dunlop.
Ballymoney’s Dunlop in action aboard the factory supported, Hawk Racing Buildbase sponsored GSX-R 1000 steed, proved once again the impossible is possible by claiming a magnificent Pokerstars Senior TT win in front of future Senior class champions Peter Hickman and Dean Harrison.
Photo by Mark Corlett
True Mountain Course racing greats, you can’t but not admire Suzuki’s feats on Manx shores. Given the right rider/team combinations, everything falling into place, subtle factors enforcing there’s no doubt that in my opinion more TT victories could follow over future times for the company which was originally known for weaving looms.
Words by Stevie Rial