Book Review: Team Suzuki

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Team Suzuki: A definitive analysis of the factory’s roadracing motorcycles
By Ray Battersby

When Ray Battersby’s Team Suzuki first appeared in 1982, it was a sensation. Never before had anyone attempted to capture in such intimate detail the history of one manufacturer’s racing efforts. While plenty had been written about individual racers and venues, before Battersby, nobody had taken the care and patience to get deep inside a company’s racing efforts and document its push to win on the track. Highly prized by racing history buffs and out of print for decades, this is the long-awaited second edition of Team Suzuki, fittingly published by Tim Parker and Parker House Publishing; Parker was responsible for the first edition at Osprey Publishing back in 1982.

The strength of the book is due to Battersby’s engaged story telling and his extensive detailing of Suzuki’s efforts. In addition to scouring all the available literature he could find, Battersby, formerly an engineer for British Leyland and a technical representative for Heron Suzuki GB (the U.K. Suzuki importer) when he wrote the book, tracked down the people who made up Team Suzuki — the engineers, the team managers, the mechanics and the riders — and interviewed them personally, amassing some 50 hours of taped interviews.

The result is a remarkably candid and informative look at Suzuki’s racing history, starting with the first race in 1953 on the slopes of Mt. Fuji (on a bicycle-based 36cc Suzuki Diamond Free — Suzuki lost), up through the early 1980s and the incredible successes of Suzuki racers like Barry Sheene and Randy Mamola.

Team Suzuki is rich with firsthand accounts of the behind the scenes maneuvering it took for Suzuki to go racing, and the challenges in crafting machines to survive the rigors of competition. Those challenges often went beyond simple mechanical and engineering obstacles, as there were also cultural and social hurdles. In early 1960, following a visit to Japan, Triumph’s managing director Ed Turner told Suzuki team members, “We have nothing special to learn from Japan. I was not impressed at all! However, I hope that one day a Japanese motorcycle will manage just one lap of the TT Mountain course!” He got his “wish,” but perhaps a bit sooner than he anticipated, as both Honda and Suzuki made successful rounds of the Mountain course that very year.

Thoroughly engrossing, Team Suzuki is a unique look at the history of racing through the efforts of one company, examining the role of the team in its entirety in bringing those efforts to fruition. $60, 240 pages. Order Team Suzuki in our Vintage Shop. MC

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