TWENTY YEARS AND STILL PUSHING HARD
The autor's lasting impression from Japan
In modern business, the term corporate culture is used rather too casually. It's defined as "the collection of beliefs, expectations, and values shared by an organization's members and transmitted from one generation of employees to another." What this definition fails to specifically include is drive. Motivation. Why is this bright young designer working twelve-hour days to get a fairing detail just right? Why is this veteran engineer also putting in twelve-hour days to shave a gram of weight from a part or extract an extra tenth of a horsepower from an engine?
If you'd never met either of these men you might be quick to assume the motivation is to keep a job, to do well enough to move up the ladder and retire with a nice fishing boat.
But I have met these men and can tell you that there's something more, particularly for those intimately involved with the Suzuki Gsxr. (And it's true that the motocross engineers, and ATV designers are just as driven in their quest to develop their products.)
The product is crucial, of course, and winning races, earning the praise of the press, and selling lots of units are all among the motivations you'd expect. Still, there was something more, and it took a few days to figure it out-days of talking to the engineers and designers, seeing motorcycles being built, watching the test riders run hard around the test track at Ryuyo on semi-damp pavement with the confidence born of thousands of laps on all kinds of motorcycles.
Finally it occurred to me: harmony. Because of the unique nature of the Gsxr concept-with its crystal-clear intent and plainly stated goals-it is, today,
easy for everyone to pull in the same direction.
A successful Suzuki Gsxr is one that is faster and better handling, in general a better perfOrmer, than its competition. It does not strive to be the one bike for every rider. It does not need outlandish styling. It need not embody trendy technology.
Suzuki Gsxr, boiled to essence, is an intensely straightforward machine. All it has to do is perform. It's the performance that sells. And wins races.
Talk to the engineers many of whom are still with the company after twenty years and who are delighted to discuss development of the original Suzuki Gsxr in the way of proud parents, and you get a sense of the intensity. Computers allow the engineers to work just as breathtakingly hard but be more productive. Still, they push on.
These engineers inhabit offices at the Ryuyo complex, in which Suzuki motorcycles share space with the automotive and marine divisions-although the facility is primarily for motorcycles as the car and marine sectors use the facility only for testing purposes. The Moto GP team is housed there, too, working in the lab and on the dynos well into the night.
One part of our tour allowed us into a dyno facility. In one cell, where a Superbike engine was undergoing development several of the tiny cylinder heads from the Gsv R Moto GP bike were stacked in a corner. If you were ever to think that engine development was simply a matter of designing on the computer, sending the file to the CNC machine to create the ideal part, and thence to the track you would be very much wrong. Every improvement in the engine comes on the back of hours of testing-methodical and precise and never-ending.
Near the end of the tour, one of the dyno technicians could be seen idly playing with an exhaust pipe for the Gsv R engine. His expression was enigmatic, but you just knew he was waiting with as much patience as he could muster for us to leave so he could get back to work and find that extra half a horsepower.
Suzuki moto: in Ryuyo, at the manufacturing plant in, Toyokawa, and at the headquarters in Hamamatsu. The overarching impression is one of a singularity of focus. The development pace is harsh, but the men behind the Gsxr are clearly up to it. Clarity plays a big role in the motivation. There is no part of the Gsxr's strength and success that is not utterly understood by all.
Gsxr? No intelligent vehicle manufacturer gives away its product plans, but enthusiasts can expect the brand to continue on its current rapid development cycle-a move that keeps all of us looking forward to ever-better motorcycles and, much to Suzuki's pride, ensures that its competition cannot ever relax.
Racing, likewise, will continue to inform the designs.
Lessons learned on the track will be put back into the street bikes, in turn, making them better track bikes and platforms for production-based racing. With the recent consolidation of the R & D department at Ryuyo, expect to see the race/production gap narrow and innovations from both Superbike and Moto GP efforts arrive in a showroom near you.
One thing all enthusiasts should expect is that the Gsxr will remain faithful to its mission.
After two decades of development, the Suzuki Gsxr isn't just well understood in the Suzuki culture, it is the Suzuki moto culture.