2015 Suzuki GSX-R1000 L5 Team Hiap Aik Suzuki Racing  (90)

The story may be apocryphal, but legend has it that the moment the second ever motorcycle was produced, two riders lined up before a line drawn in the dirt, and motorcycle racing began. The need of a rider to take a motorcycle, and pit it against the clock, another rider, a different machine, has been around ever since.

Today’s superbikes are terribly functional machines, designed to do one thing, and that is go very fast around corners and on the straights. Everything else tends to be secondary, including rider comfort.

This is, of course, by design. Except for endurance racing, most motorcycle races top out at about 40 minutes or so, and even in six-hour and longer endurance races, riders swap saddles every hour, on the average.

2015 Suzuki GSX-R1000 L5 Team Hiap Aik Suzuki Racing  (8)

Some may ask why such single-focus superbikes exist. A case in point is the 2016 Kawasaki ZX-10R, which we recently tested and reviewed. Developed in conjunction with its superbike racing team, the ZX-10R is a track weapon that is made road-legal.

The same applies to Ducati’s 959 Panigale, which we rode in Buriram, Thailand. Again, while concessions are made for street riding, the overwhelming purpose of the bike is to be quick, fast and precise on a racetrack, where its full power and handling is brought to the fore.

2015 Suzuki GSX-R1000 L5 Team Hiap Aik Suzuki Racing  (27)

Which brings us to the Suzuki GSX-R 1000. As Suzuki’s top-of-the-range superbike, the GSX-R 1000 has a legendary history going back to the ‘H’ model, back in 1983.

However, the Suzuki brand has not been in the prominent in the minds of local riders for some years, although it does have a loyal following, notably for the GSX-R. To address that issue, efforts are being made on the part of Suzuki Assemblers Malaysia to re-enter the marketplace, so to speak.

To that end, it has teamed up with Suzuki dealer Hiap Aik, and formed Team Suzuki Hiap Aik Racing. The team is contesting a pair of 2015 GSX-R 1000 L5s in the local superbike category, with riders C Y Khoo and Jin T W.

Suzuki Hiap Aik racing gave us a chance to get under the skin of a race-prepped GSX-R 1000, as well as take one of the race bikes for a spin on a closed circuit. Superbike rules call for a minimum of engine and chassis modifications, in order to keep racing costs down.

2015 Suzuki GSX-R1000 L5 Team Hiap Aik Suzuki Racing  (51)

This means the GSX-R 1000 is essentially the same machine a rider could buy off the showroom floor, but with some modifications to release those last few horses. To go racing means getting rid of everything that isn’t necessary for racing. This includes all the lighting and other road-legal requirements.

Designed to be easily removed and replaced if necessary, a race fairing is installed. This is both a weight-saving and cost-cutting measure, as OEM bodywork is heavy and expensive to replace if the bike crashes, which racebikes tend to do on a distressingly regular basis.

A race exhaust is certainly de rigeur for any racing motorcycle, and in the case of the Suzuki Hiap Aik GSX-R, a full Akrapovic steel system with carbon-fibre end-can is installed. This presents a weight savings over the standard system, as the exhaust piping is made from thinner tubing and noise attenuation is omitted.

In the case of the #7 Team Suzuki Hiap Aik Racing bike we rode, the brake discs were swapped out for Galfer units for weight and braking performance considerations. The Brembo brake calipers themselves were left standard, and provided perfectly adequate performance at racetrack speeds.

Other additions to the racing setup were carbon-fibre frame and swing-arm protectors, as well as swapping out the levers for billet aluminium parts. The windscreen was also changed for a taller bubble, to give the rider more protection when riding with chin on the tank on the straights.

Bobbins for the front forks and swing-arm were installed, to allow the use of paddock stands, with the standard side-stand removed. The paddock stands allow the wheels to be changed out by a single mechanic, as well as maintenance and adjustments to be performed with the GSX-R 1000 L5 sitting level.

The steering damper, an Ohlins unit, is tucked away underneath the lower triple-crown. No fancy electronically adjustable damper here, just an adjustable unit that is basically “set-and-forget”.

To further fine-tune the ‘fit’ of the GSX-R 1000 to the rider, rear-set foot-pegs are installed. These allow for adjustment of the foot controls to give the rider precise control and activation, and provide extra ground clearance when the bike is heeled over in a corner.

Inside the cockpit, on prominent display, are the data-logger and quickshifter console. Tied to the quickshift sensor on the gearshift lever, the quickshifter cuts power momentarily when the rider changes gear upwards, eliminating the need to use the clutch lever and throttle to match engine revolutions to gearbox speed.

2015 Suzuki GSX-R1000 L5 Team Hiap Aik Suzuki Racing  (69)

This saves time, especially on the straights, when a quick racebike will require the rider to bang through the gears at very high speed. The console unit allows the rider to see the shift-light, which blinks when the engine reaches the correct gear change speed, or the redline, based on the rider’s preference.

The datalogger, in this case made by Speedangle, records several parameters from both the bike and its engine. Combined with a video camera GPS, it is possible to download and view performance data such as speed, engine speed, lean angle, acceleration and braking super-imposed on the video as the bike races along the track.

As in every race machine, suspension performance also pays a very important part. At high speeds and in corners, the handling of a racing superbike can mean the difference between a good lap time, or a crash. For the Suzuki Hiap Aik GSX-Rs, K-Tech supplies the rear suspension shock absorber, a fully-adjustable and rebuildable unit with a remote adjuster and reservoir.

2015 Suzuki GSX-R1000 L5 Team Hiap Aik Suzuki Racing  (91)

Riding the Team Suzuki Hiap Aik Racing GSX-R 1000 L5 was done at the Melaka International motorsports circuit (MIMC) in Ayer Keroh, Melaka. The circuit, originally designed as a go-kart track, is very tight, and the surface is in need of re-conditioning, but is an excellent place to test the handling and braking characteristics of a racebike.

Most racebikes tend to be violent, no-nonsense machines, but the Suzuki GSX-R 1000 L5, was different. Throttle control on the big Gixxer was exemplary, and whacking the throttle open mid-corner was done with confidence.

Tractability also scored very highly, with the engine delivering lots of torque throughout the powerband, letting the rider choose a gear up or down when taking a corner without fear of a high- or low-side. Pushed to the edge, the K-Tech rear suspension let the rider know exactly what was going on down below, with good feedback at slightly below race pace.

2015 Suzuki GSX-R1000 L5 Team Hiap Aik Suzuki Racing  (2)

While the circuit was too short to allow for the GSX-R’s throttle to be whacked open to the stop, suffice it to say that power was adequate to propel both bike and the author to some terrifying speed before slamming on the brakes for the 180-degree hairpin at the end of the pits.

The Team Suzuki Hiap Aik Racing Suzuki GSX-R 1000 L5 weighs “somewhere near the minimum superbike weight limit”, according to the Hiap Aik racing team manager, and we believe it. The Gixxer drops into corners easily enough, and corner transitions were made with a gentle touch on the bars.

2015 Suzuki GSX-R1000 L5 Team Hiap Aik Suzuki Racing  (44)

Make no mistake though, the GSX-R 1000 is a hefty bike, and having the rider’s arms stretched out over the tank does make for some effort to be applied when turning. Despite the fact that its competitors have overtaken the GSX-R 1000 in terms of techonology and design, the Gixxer, in the hands of a skilled rider, could still take the fight to much newer race machinery.

At this point, many are anticipating the launch of the 2017 Suzuki GSX-R 1000 L7, which, according to our sources, is likely to arrive in Malaysia at the end of the year, or a little later. As a completely new and updated machine, with Showa’s Balance Free front fork and Balance Free Ride Cushion rear shock, as well as a complete suite of electronic riding aids, we shall see if the “Highway King” will reclaim its throne.