For the final round of modifications, Race Tech suspension was added to the 2009 Suzuki GSX-R600, which simply reaffirmed the superior stability of the GSX-R.
4th Place – 2009 Suzuki GSX-R600
Yoshimura continued to handle the modifications to the GSX-R600 for this final stage in our Supersport extravaganza. For all details of the initial round of hop-ups, be sure to check out the 2009 Suzuki GSX-R600 Modified Comparison page in the first part of this trackday-inspired comparo. This final stage is where things started to really get serious, though.
First up on the list of additions was Race Tech suspension on both ends of all four middleweights, Yosh working in close connection with the suspension company to get the ideal base set-up before coming to the track. In terms of actual hardware, Race Tech’s custom series G3S shock replaced the OE unit out back, set up for a 150-pound pro-level rider (average of all the test riders’ weights), using a 9.2kg spring on the shock and 0.95kg fork springs, both featuring aggressive racetrack-focused valving. Gracing the front were the stock external fork legs, the internals completely swapped for Race Tech’s 25mm cartridge kit.
While already a shining point for the GSX-R, the addition of the Race Tech suspension only reaffirmed what we already knew: There’s very few sportbikes on the market today that can rival the sheer stability and planted feel which the Suzuki provides its rider no matter the situation, no matter the speed. From racetrack virgin to Ricky Pro Racer, versatility is the Suzuki’s game, a game it has mastered.
“The Suzuki is one of the most planted bikes mid-corner,” says Sorensen, “any corner at that. Both at the slow speeds of Streets of Willow as well as the rippin’-fast Big Willow, there isn’t much one can do to get the Suzuki to misbehave. I thought the Race Tech shock worked well throughout the whole test, tracking well over bumps and very planted on the exits, a big part of the reason for its supreme stability. It just has really good balance going from charging the front to getting back on the gas on the exit.”
Many editors felt the GSX-R had good handling, but numbers actually placed the Suzuki near the back in terms of corner-related categories.
At the same time the Suzuki also steers quite quickly, with both CT Racing’s Corey Neuer and our Road Test Editor Adam Waheed commenting that it now rivaled the Yamaha for outright flickability honors. While this wasn’t quite the case in terms of outright numbers, there’s no question the new suspension livened up what was an already quick-steering motorcycle.
“Handling wise the Suzuki felt like it almost turned a hair faster than the Yamaha, which really surprised me!” declares Waheed.
But a look at the data numbers seems to tell a different story at Streets of Willow, as the GSX-R is at the back in nearly all of the corner-related categories. But diving in a little deeper shows that, while the numbers are some the group’s lowest, they are still quite close to the competition, showing that even a small hindrance can mean the difference from first to last in this close-knit pack. What caused that difference with the Suzuki? Believe it or not, the rearsets – or lack thereof.
Surprisingly, the Japanese tuning giant opted to leave the stock units on as they did not have any rearsets matching their latest design for the middle Suzuki sportbike and thought better to show nothing than an old design. Problem was that the stock footpegs are extremely low and were almost constantly dragging, as such reducing the lean-angles and corner speeds, adversely effecting any of the parameters measured while cranked over on its side.
Suzuki was the only manufactuer who didn’t alter the airbox or make intake modifications, so the power pretty much remained the same.
A perfect example is Turn 8, Streets’ infamous ‘Bowl’ turn. While last in the rankings in two of the three categories and second-to-last in the other, its max lean angle of 55.2 degrees is less than a single degree back of the Honda in second and 6.6 degrees adrift of the class-leading Yamaha, a number which is somewhat of an anomaly in itself due to the unorthodox line riders are forced to run on the R6. This also translated into max lateral g-forces of 1.42g, an impressive number that is merely 0.09g behind the second-place Kawi and 0.39g off of the top-dog Yamaha. Corner speed was closer still, the Suzuki second-from-the-back at 44.54 mph at the apex, though only 1.54 mph adrift of the Yamaha in front. Those are such small numbers that the littlest thing could have been to blame, in this case it most likely was the footpegs dragging on the ground.
While this hindered some of our smaller and faster riders in a pursuit of ultimate quick lap times, Waheed and his lanky 6-foot-tall frame found the added room to be exactly what he wanted and the footpeg-dragging side effects to not be bothersome at all.
“There’s a lot of room for a bigger rider yet ground clearance wasn’t at all an issue for me,” says Waheed. “Sure the footpegs would touch the ground occasionally, but I’ll deal with it in order to be comfortable and be able to ride more than just a couple laps. Overall, the Suzuki’s chassis felt like it had the most flex; in a way it made it easy and forgiving to ride but it also made it difficult to explore its limits, so the end result was a tradeoff, but it was still one of my favorite chassis of the bunch.”
For this final round Suzuki was the only manufacturer who opted not to do any airbox or intake modifications, thus its bike was almost completely unchanged in terms of power. Some additional tuning on the dyno netted a gain of just over a single pony, something not noticeable on track. That’s not to say the Suzuki is slow, as it made a very solid 112.32 hp following the first stage of mods and now makes 113.84 hp at the rear wheel. And while even including the additional airbox mods that the others did, that number is very close to all but the Kawasaki in terms of spinning the dyno wheel. The Suzuki’s power delivery is deceptive, most riders commenting that it was by far the slowest feeling of the bunch.
Sorensen once again saw past this, though, a comment that was supported by the data numbers from Streets as well. “The Suzuki has a smooth and seamless power delivery,” he comments. “Because of this, it makes you think that it is slow. It is a deceptively good motor. While
One area the Suzuki saw improvement with was gearing. This round two teeth were added to the rear sprocket, allowing it to pull sixth gear at Big Willow without a problem.
running next to the other bikes you will see it keeps up, it’s just not as exciting to ride as some of the competition because of the smooth power.”
This was aided by a rather large change to the gearing for this round, adding an additional two teeth on the rear sprocket, going from a 15/44 to a 15/46 at the big track and from a 15/43 to a 15/45 at Streets. Because the Suzuki was only running as a five-speed at big Willow last time, the added two teeth out back got it up in the revs far enough to pull sixth gear, a definite improvement over the previous round.
“There’s no question the gearing change was a massive help for the Suzuki,” adds Sorensen. “Last time it would barely pull fifth gear and now with the added teeth out back it pulls sixth at big Willow no problem. This was an area where they struggled last time, but came back out this round and improved it, without adding any additional power. Simple gearing made a huge change in how the bike performed.”
Data acquisition backs this up as well, especially looking at some of the slow-speed corners, specifically Turn 12, the final corner at Streets. This second-gear right-hander is one of the slowest corners on the track, from which the Suzuki would pull an impressive 0.82g on the exit, only a hair behind the class-leading Kawasaki at 0.83g. When the speeds increased slightly and g-forces were measured coming out of the Bowl, Turn 8, the Suzuki was again second to the Kawasaki, producing 0.54g when pulling out of the third-gear corner.
When the dust settled and Superpole times came in, the end result was the Suzuki again at the back of the pack. While not by a huge margin, its 1:27.65 at big Willow was just over a second-and-a-half back of the Kawasaki, while the 1:19.26 it posted at Streets trailed the top time by just under a second, which was also set by the ZX-6R.
What it all boils down to, though, is that the Suzuki started off with a base package that wasn’t quite as fast or quite as sharp as the rest of the competition. And when you start out with a machine that trails ever so slightly behind a group as fierce as this, all getting similar modifications, making up that gap becomes nearly impossible. But Suzuki knows this, and as such it will be totally changing its middleweight next year, the first all-new GSX-R600 in nearly five years; details of which were just released to the public this past weekend and can be seen in our 2011 Suzuki GSX-R600 First Look.
So stay tuned, as they just gave us a reason to do this all over again next year! Thank you, Suzuki…