Scott Redding today took to the track at Spa Francorchamps on Kevin Schwantz’s 1994 Suzuki RGV500 as he became part of an exclusive club of riders to have experienced both two-stroke 500cc and current four-stroke GP machinery (Redding tested the Ducati Desmosedici in 2012).
The ride took place at the Bikers’ Classic event and the Moto2 championship leader took to the track alongside legends such as Giacomo Agostini, Phil Read, Wayne Gardner and Christian Sarron. What was supposed to be ten parade laps quickly turned into a race as Redding slipped past Sarron, Gardner and Didier De Radigues before catching up with Steve Plater – riding Kenny Roberts’ 1999 RGV500 XR88 – to battle for the lead. In the end, Redding had to settle for second place behind the former British Supersport Champion.
"I got a good start to lead through Eau Rouge, but this was my first time on the track on two wheels, on a bike I only slung a leg over ten minutes beforehand. The rest of the guys rode yesterday, so they had a bit of an advantage in the opening laps, but it didn't take me long to get a feel for the bike and to figure out the lines. I managed to push my way back up into second and then had a great battle with Steve Plater over the last few laps. In the end I couldn't quite find a way past him before the chequered flag, but second place isn't too bad for my first outing on a 500GP bike!" said Redding.
Quite different to the 600cc four-stroke Redding races in Moto2, the 1994 Suzuki RGV 500 XR84 weighs just 135kg and produces around 195BHP from its 70° V-Four, 498cc two-stroke engine, enough to propel it to a top speed approaching 320km/h with the right gearing. The machine is owned by Northamptonshire businessman, Steve Wheatman, and is run at events by his own Team Classic Suzuki set up.
"The bike was absolutely amazing. Okay, the brakes weren't great, but we were expecting that. The handling was incredible because the bike is so light; it was really easy to change direction. It accelerated hard too, with the front coming up in every gear. I didn't need a rev counter; I just changed up whenever I felt the front wheel was high enough! There was a lot of power, but it was pretty controllable, nothing like the razor sharp powerband I was expecting. It turns like a 125 and was still pulling in sixth. They should bring these back. It was absolutely mega to ride!"
Redding even used some of the more modern day riding techniques to push the nearing twenty-year old bike as far as he was willing to…
"I was knee down and I could see I was quite close with the elbow, so I just leant it over a bit more and down it went. I don't think they did that in 500GP back in 1994, but then the tyres we were using today offer a lot more grip than those Kevin Schwantz had to contend with when he raced the bike."
"I'd like to say a massive thank you to Steve Wheatman for letting me loose on his rather expensive bike, and also to Olivier Aerts for organising the ride today. It was great fun and I hope I'll get the chance to repeat the experience in the not too distant future," concluded Redding.
Redding will be back out on track next weekend at Sachsenring as he defends his lead in the Moto2 Championship.
Kawasaki has today unveiled the next generation of its ZX-10R superbike.
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