John Reynolds talks GSX-R1000 development – part two

/ January 19, 2017
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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, and in part two we move testing from Japan to the roads and racetracks of Europe.

It’d been a long 10 days in Japan, testing the all-new GSX-R1000R for former JR, but after delivering his feedback and highlighting the areas he wanted to see improved, he returned to the UK and waited for the call to say his services were required again.

Read part one here.

“At home I was pretty much just sat around waiting to see where we’d be going next and when. And I really was only waiting. I didn’t hear anything in between, I wasn’t consulted. I’d done my job. I’d ridden the bike, told them what I thought, not just the things I wanted to improve but the good things too – of which there were many – and now I was waiting until I’d get to ride it again and see what the team in Japan had done.

“And then I got the call; the European tests were going ahead. I was out there for over three weeks, and I was excited to get back on the bike again and see what changes had been made. It was also quite difficult too, I hadn’t really been away from my family for that length of time before so it was quite hard. But it’s the job and it’s the sort of effort you have to put in on a project like this.”

After the tests at Suzuki’s facility in Japan, the testing planned for Europe would take place on the roads and on the racetrack, with JR’s job to help refine and tune the bike’s performance. It started with another meeting, reacquainting himself with the rest of the test team. Technicians from Japan were over with Shinichi Sahara, the chief engineer on the project, while the rest of the European test team were present. After that, it was time for his second first ride.

“My impressions were really good right away,” JR can’t help but tell us with a huge grin. “It was only small bits that had changed, but they made big differences, and I knew this bike was proper.

“We went through and tested everything, stability – both straight line and in the corners – engine performance, braking and suspension performance, everything. We used the autobahns in Germany every day. It was great. I was on one and we were riding along and once we could see the road was clear, we were off. I was tucked in, going through the box, and on the dash I could see 280kph, 290, 295, 298, 299. I wanted to see 300kph, so I was moving around, trying to get everything tucked in and squeezing everything out of it, but it wouldn’t budge. However, I could see the revs were still climbing! I got back and reported it and they said, “ah, the dash won’t show 300kph.” Which means we were doing well over that!

GSX-R1000_AL7_cut_engine_VVT“The extra horsepower we had wasn’t noticeable right away. This bike has so much power you couldn’t feel four or five horsepower in isolation. We had to test it against other bikes. I said in Japan that we wanted more power, and ‘this’ was where we need to be,” he says, holding his hand above his head as a marker. “We tested them back-to-back again and it was very clear that we didn’t have an issue any more. None at all. It just makes continuous power, all the way through. It’s relentless, it pulls and pulls from about 6,000rpm all the way to 14,500rpm.”

Despite signing off the engine performance, JR was on the roads everyday, but it was the racetrack he was eager to get back on.

“With the road stuff, we spent time testing the suspension, tyres, brakes, riding in the wet and on bumpy roads, but the German and French test riders took more of the lead on that. I wanted to get onto the racetrack. We had also been working on the traction control, and it was the hardest thing to test. We have 10 modes, and from the start I knew mode one needed to be close to the edge. Mode 10 will pretty much drag you out of a muddy field, and we refined modes five to 10 on the road. But one to four needed to be done on the race track.

“We had a two-day test on track, and I was pushing hard. I wanted one to be the very best setting. Not intrusive and will allow the bike to slide. It was good, I focused on second and third gear corners. Traction control should, in theory, keep both wheels in line, but that’s not always the fastest way around a corner and sometimes you need a bit of that to help it turn. So I’d go and do some laps and come back in and ask them to back it off further and further. The quickest way around a race track is without traction control, as in theory it only holds you back. So I kept asking them to back it off until it was the sort of setting that you’d use on a race bike.

“In the end you really had to trust the system, it was that lenient. I’d race on it. Mode on is if you are really on it on a racetrack. If you get mid corner at full lean and give it a handful you’ll probably end up over the highside. This is for coming out of corners, on the gas, where you want the bike to slide, slide, slide, but will catch it when it goes too far. I spent all day working on setting number one.

“After we got mode one right, it was easier to keep bringing it in a bit earlier and earlier to get all four track modes right.”

GSX-R1000_A_RL7_Action_43It was an all encompassing trip. Not only was JR helping refine settings and setup, but he was helping pile the miles on to test reliability and durability.

“We climbed up into the mountains, over 10,000ft, to see how the bike works at altitude. We hit the autobahns pretty much everyday to put the miles on. It was all done and data-logged, and that was really the end of the test. All the boxes are ticked and I was happy this time. Everything I had mentioned at the first test had been worked on and improved. What we have now is a bike with more power and more torque than any other litre sports bike. And it’s a fantastic road bike, too.”

His testing duties are not the end of JR’s journey with bringing the new GSX-R1000R to market. He will be heading out to Phillip Island to help with the world launch in February. But what of the test bike?

“I asked Sahara san at the end of the test, ‘what will happen to this bike?’ Knowing full well what his answer would be. And he told me that it’ll go back to Japan to be crushed. I said you can’t do that, give it to me and I’ll put it on the wall above the fire place. It seemed such a shame to be destroyed. I fell in love with it. I told them I’ll sign a contract, it won’t ever go on the road. I’ll keep it safe at home. He told me he’d make a phone call. In the morning he came to me and said, ‘John san, it’s bad news. It’s got to be crushed.”