5th August 2008
The Suzuka 8 Hour race is the one the Japanese factories have to win, so you can’t move for the latest in two wheeled high-performance exotica. Martin Gelder got distracted by some old Kawasakis and some more recent big singles...
The Suzuka 8 Hour race is a huge event. Enormous. Away from the racing and the girls in bikinis, one of the main attractions is the Japanese equivalent to the Avenue of Clubs, and two particular displays caught my eye. No, we’re not going back to the girls in Bikinis.
The Japanese are never ones for doing things by halves (you’ve all seen that “Endurance” game show, right?) and when they start tinkering with old UJMs (Universal Japanese Motorcycles) it quickly gets out of hand.
This Honda CB750 looked fairly standard, until you notice the beefy swinging arm and the flat-slide carbs, and start to look closer...
But that was just the start. This Kawasaki Z1B had been turned up to 11, managing to keep the basic look of the original while being given the full “bolt on” treatment.
More flat slide carbs, along with stunning titanium exhaust pipes.
This GPz900R looked fairly standard at first glance, but then you notice the frame bracing, the Ohlins USD forks and radial brake calipers, yet another set of flatslide carbs, and so on.
It wasn't all big four cylinder bruisers from the eighties. This ultra-slim and stripped down single was the other attention grabber in the main display. It is – apparently – an SR400 Sports M1 Road-Bomber Replica.
Based on Yamaha's SR400 (the home-market version of the SR500 imported into the UK in the eighties), there was a road version and a track version on show. The road version is the one pictured.
The track bike apparently weighed in at 126kg and made a fairly gentle 30bhp from it's 500cc motor. The road bike has a standard 400cc engine with slightly less power.2008 Yamaha SR400
Although the SR500 is no longer available, the SR400 is still a current model available from Yamaha in Japan. 398cc two valve overhead-cam engine, 27bhp at 7,000rpm, 152kg, and yours for 486,150 Yen or about £2,300. Bargain.
As with bike shows in Britain, quite often the bikes that are not in the main show are just as interesting as the polished and primped examples lined up in the official display.Suzuki Grasstracker Big Boy
This yellow flat-track style Suzuki single was parked up at the back of the pitlane area. It's a “Grasstracker Big Boy”, similar to the GN250 imported into Europe, and seems to be a current Suzuki model.
Further down the same rank was this understated Suzuki Katana 1000, with the regulation titanium exhaust and Keihin flat-slides.
And then there was the Magni Guzzi that passed us on the trip from the airport to the circuit, or the ex-Freddie Spencer NSR500 and Mister Donut RVF750 tucked away in a quiet pit garage, or the countless highly tuned minibikes ripping round the paddock...
Japan is half a world away; at times it feels like a different planet. Ten minutes of arm-waving sign-language with the people who rode these bikes had me realising that we're the same the world over. Now I just can't decide if my next bike should be a big bad four from the early eighties, or a nimble stripped-down street single...
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