John Reynolds is pretty quick on a motorcycle. He’s a three-time British Superbike champion, winning his last title in 2004 on the GSX-R1000, but since then has turned his talents to developing the GSX-R range, from the 600 and 750, through to the all-new GSX-R1000. We spoke to him about the process, his input, and how happy he is with the finished product.
“I had no expectations or previous ideas of what the bike would be like. I knew nothing. I had an idea, but I couldn’t be told anything until I got there. I was on a plane to Japan and just knew I was going to test a new GSX-R1000,” John Reynolds explained as he sat down to talk through his involvement in the development of the all-new machine.
JR has been a Suzuki test rider since 2007. His first role was to develop the SV650, to introduce him to the role and processes. Since then he’s been involved in the development of the GSX-R600 that won the British Supersport title at the first attempt, and the latest version of the iconic GSX-R750, as well as the previous generation of the GSX-R1000.
“The start of any test is the same; we’re not allowed to ride within 24 hours of arrival, so we just go to the facility, sign the paperwork, look at the bike and have a meeting with engineers to run through the test structure. Then head to the hotel to try and get some sleep before starting work the next day.
“We then have another engineer’s meeting in the morning and then run the bike’s initial spec, dimensions, engine layout, the variable valve timing, everything,” JR continued. “It made for interesting reading. But there were bits on there that we’ve changed since. And then I get on it and go for a ride.”
While in Japan, JR spent 10 days on track, working to continue the development work already started by the Japanese test team.
“My first ride was good. The bike was very good and was already a massive improvement over the old bike. We evaluated it against the old bike and also our rivals. It was good. But we also had areas I wanted to improve. I wanted more power. Peak power was about there, but I wanted us to get their quicker, so we worked on the midrange.
“The chassis was good too, but I felt we could improve stability. The engineers are very clever guys though, and they went away, tilted the engine back in the chassis and shortened the frame, but then extended the swingarm. The bike is 5mm longer now that it was then.”
But the process was never going to be plain sailing. The key ingredient in any bike out of Hamamatsu is passion, and in a team as driven as the team behind the GSX-R1000, any criticisms weren’t always going to be gratefully received. But JR had a brief and there were key targets that the bike needed to hit.
“The bike was really good, and the Japanese team had done a great job. But as a test rider I’m not there to make friends. I don’t want to upset anybody, but I don’t want to tell any lies. I spent all of my racing career doing this. If there’s something that needs to be worked on I have to say it. It’s not to insult anybody, but I have to say this is where we’re at and this is where we need to be, how do we get there? That’s the job, that’s what I’m paid for at the end of the day, and the brief was to make it the best and not to be satisfied until it is. I’m flown halfway across the world for my expertise. We’re all on the same team so I say what I have to so at the end we know we’ve got the best bike we can have.”
During the early stages of development the electronics package was still a work in progress, and another element of the bike that JR gave his steer on.
“I knew it was going to have a 10-tier traction control system, but the parameters hadn’t yet been set. It also didn’t have a quick-shifter when I first got there. I remember a few days into the test – and I’d been going on and on about a quick-shifter- I was sat there, in the sun, to be honest, just catching a bit of it, and I heard this bike coming towards me down one of the long straights. I heard the noise and could hear a quick-shifter. I looked up and there was a GSX-R coming towards me with this big box on the back, and an engineer on it in overalls and a helmet, and I knew we were getting one.”
JR’s first trip to Japan ended after 10 days on track, further developing the all-new GSX-R1000 and helping towards the goal of making it the best and fastest sportsbike around a race track.
But the work was not done. In part two JR will talk about his testing in Europe, and the refining of the electronics.
Read part two here.