Words: John Nutting | Photos: Gary Chapman
After 20 years of speed record breaking, the GSX1300R Hayabusa was dropped from Suzuki’s UK line-up in 2019. John Nutting celebrates some of its achievements and rides a pristine example.
I must confess to feeling slightly nervous after editor Bertie asked if I’d like to have a go on a Suzuki Hayabusa and write about it from CMM.
After all, not only was the Hayabusa launched in the late 1990s, long after I’d retired from performance testing motorcycles, but it had acquired legendary status as one of the fastest production machines ever offered with, some say, the capability of topping 200mph. In other words, the Hayabusa could be regarded as a bit of a handful for the less initiated like me.
Owner Martin Pottage had got in touch to offer his bike because it is around 20 years since the GSX1300R first reached showrooms and shocked riders with its swoopy lines. It was appropriately named after the Japanese for the peregrine falcon, a bird that reputedly can hit the double ton in a dive, making it the fastest animal on earth.
More to the point, 2019 was the last year of the current Hayabusa’s production – the model is being dropped from the Suzuki range because it can’t meet the latest Euro 5 regs. Sad that, when you consider what the bike has achieved over the past two decades. So consider this a tribute, as Martin had hoped, to a motorcycle that is truly legendary.
The Hayabusa was launched at the Munich bike show at the end of 1998 when the top speed of the most potent superbikes was approaching 300kph, or 186mph. Kawasaki’s ZX11/ZZ-R1100 had already been tested at more than 178mph and Honda’s CBR1100XX Super Blackbird topped that figurein 1997 to become the world’s fastest mass-produced motorcycle.
Suzuki aimed to blow that into the weeds with the Hayabusa. This was achieved with a combination of a bigger engine producing much more power and full-on aerodynamics. Until then, Suzuki’s range-leading superbike had been the GSX-R1100W, an unwieldy 1074cc four that had been the culmination of just over 10 years of development from the original GSX-R750 and 1986’s 1100.
The Hayabusa took its cue from the latest GSX-R750 and GSX-R600 models with a low light-alloy beam frame housing a new liquid-cooled 16-valve engine that owed more to that used in Suzuki’s Swift GT sports car produced from 1986 to 1997, but in a much higher state of tune. With a shorter stroke of 63mm and larger bores of 81mm, the Hayabusa engine packed its claimed peak power of 175bhp at a heady 9800rpm.
That might have been enough to assume the mantle of ‘world’s fastest’, but Suzuki’s project leader Koji Yoshiura went all out to reduce the aerodynamic drag to a minimum by smoothing out any interruptions in the flowing surface of bodywork with an all-enveloping front mudguard, a low snout and a high tail. Power was also boosted with gaping air intakes either side of the skinny headlamp.