Suzuki Immortalizes Seven GP Championship Liveries
Suzuki has a long, storied legacy in road racing. From Barry Sheene in the 500cc GP to Toni Elias in MotoAmerica Superbikes, Suzukis have clinched podiums and titles many times over the years, in race series the world over.
Now with this year’s crowning of Joan Mir in the 2020 MotoGP road racing series, Suzuki has revealed a special edition run of their GSX-R monarchs over the years, each in the paint scheme of the year it stood atop the GP championship. Each will come stock with an Akrapovic exhaust system and livery-matched seat cowling. They are beautiful recreations of their championship counterparts, and we thought we’d share them with you, if you haven’t beheld them yet.
Barry Sheene- 1976
British racer Barry Sheene took his first of back-to-back titles in 1976 in the then 500 GP class aboard his Suzuki RG500 beast. Sheene took 5 wins and a 2nd place finish that year, and combined with enough top 10 finishes, clinched the title for Suzuki.
Barry Sheene- 1977
Sheene retained the crown in 1977 astride his trusty RG500, upping his win count to 6 victories and a 2nd place to keep the World GP title firmly in hand.
Marco Luchinelli- 1981
Marco “Crazy Horse” Luchinelli briefly joined the Suzuki racing team with Sheene in 1976, then returned in 1978. In the 1981 GP 500 series, the Italian won 5 races and took 2 podiums to bring the GP title back to Team Suzuki.
Franco Uncini- 1982
Another Italian battled with Luchinelli in 1982, snatching the title but keeping it in the Suzuki camp with 5 wins and a commanding 27 point lead over the field on his trusty Suzuki steed. Uncini would be the last Italian to secure a 500cc Premier Class championship until Valentino Rossi in 2001.
Kevin Schwantz- 1993
Beloved American rider Kevin Schwantz battled with another popular American, Wayne Rainey across the 1993 season until Rainey’s tragic, career-ending crash at Misano handed Schwantz the World GP title. It would be Schwantz’s only 500cc World Championship, but the racer accumulated a total of 25 career GP wins, making him the 2nd most successful American motorcycle road racer behind Eddie Lawson. The FIM retired his racing number 34 as a tribute to his career and popularity.
Kenny Roberts Jr.- 2000
After a dry spell atop the top GP rung for several years, American Kenny Roberts Jr. displayed his champion blood line by clinching the 500cc Premier Class title in his first year, defeating another GP class rookie named Valentino Rossi, fresh off the Italian’s previous season championship in the 250cc class. Roberts took 4 wins and 5 podiums, beating Rossi in points and becoming the first and only (to date) son of a former champion to also win the class.
Joan Mir- 2021
Replacing Andrea Iannone at Team Suzuki Ecstar in 2019, the Spaniard Mir finished 12th that year in his rookie MotoGP season. In 2020 Mir came into his own after a few rough starts, consistently on the podium and/or in the points race after race. Even though he only took one top-tier finish all season, Mir clinched the MotoGP crown on 171 points. With this title, Mir became the first Suzuki rider to take the Premier Class championship since Roberts Jr. in 2000, the first non-Honda and non-Yamaha racer to claim the title since Casey Stoner on a Ducati in 2007, and the first Moto3 champion to win a MotoGP title since Rossi took the 250cc class title in 1999.
Sadly, these commemorative editions are not going to be made available outside of Europe (yet). In time, we’re hoping Suzuki will see fit to offer them Stateside, in Australia, and the Far East, where road racing is still quite popular. They are fantastic replicas of legendary championship-winning bikes, reflecting the champions who throttled them to victory.
*Photos by Suzuki