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Suzuki GSX-R1300 Hayabusa -PERE-GRIN FALCON


The motorcycle that I turn to when I have to recommend a superbike to someone is usually the Suzuki GSX-R1300 Hayabusa. The person asking for my vote could be an experienced superbike pilot, an utter novice just moving up from a Kinetic Honda (improbable, but it does happen) or just someone making idle conversation. The Suzuki Hayabusa, in my book, fits them all.

I’ve ridden a few now, and I can state with utter confidence that in the face  sheer speed-ability of this Suzuki, its versatility, friendly character and forgiving nature is as surprising as it is a relief. Imagine a 320 kph motorcycle that had the disposition of a Gestapo interrogation expert, was as friendly as an enraged cobra and possessed the fun-n-games character of a professional assassin. Takes away the charm of the 320 kph, does it not? 

The Hayabusa was first shown to the world in 1998. Love blossomed from the press kit stage itself, and while a few detractors dug in their heels and obstinately referred to the thing variously as an ugly pig and a gigantic, shapeless buffalo, the rest of the world was not tuned in to that frequency.With magazines awash with top speed runs, the 314-321 kph records were peppered by considerable astonishment. The speed was possible despite – and not at the expense of – the Hayabusa’s market-defined role – that of a comfortable sport tourer. Here was a motorcycle that could actually corner with respectable deportment, left mile long trails of burnt rubber when you really wanted it and chewed up rear tyres more thoroughly than a one-year old Labrador and with similar abandon. And when space permitted, it shot the whole shebang to velocities considered improper less than one year ago with consummate ease.   What followed was two fold. The highly respected tourers of the time, like the Honda Pan European, for instance, simply paled into insignificance. To save face, the term hypersports tourer or hyper tourer was applied to the Hayabusa, a class of one until the ZX-12R took up the challenge later. And shortly after the sportier, and not so tour-y ZX-12R appeared, the conservative European lawmakers collectively heaved up their boiled clams, escargot and Belgian beers. 320 kph production motorcycles? No, no, that was too much, n’est ce pas? 

The Hayabusa, in short, is the motorcycle that engendered the 186 mph (298 kph) gentleman’s top speed agreement. Of course, the derestrictor kit market, a £50 accessory, went through the roof. Many rode late model ‘Busas that had been derestricted and could lightly caress the magic 200 mph top speed (320 kph) under the right conditions. Predictably, the largest majority chose to simply boast about it while sticking firmly to the prescribed speed limit and enjoying the Swiss army knife like ability of this great big lug of a motorcycle.

The Hayabusa began life as a 1300cc inline four that produced 160-odd bhp, had a distinctive, if shapeless, look and the ability to go so fast in a straight line that it made most other motorcycles, including the litre class bikes of the time, look like they had moped engines and leather clad wimps in control. So successful was the package that not only did Hayabusas soar out of showrooms at incredible velocity, Suzuki plied the same route as the Yamaha V-Max for years. The motorcycle turned out damn near perfect right out of the box, and Suzuki didn’t mess with it. Paint it like this for 1999, like that for 2000 and that’s about all that was needed. On the other hand, the engine proved so strong and so reliable that boutique car makers all over the planet lined up in queues to have Hayabusa motors powering their creations. If BSM did a four page feature on each ‘Busa engined creation for one issue, I’d reckon that issue would weigh in at about 17 kilos and have no ads in it for want of space despite having about a thousand pages.

And no, I won’t extend this massive intro to the one motorcycle that does not actually need one by mentioning the utter, inexplicable madness of bolting turbos, blowers, nitrous or all three to an already incredible motor.Finally, last year, Kawasaki got themselves a handle on the problem of the runaway Hayabusa, and devised the superb ZX-14R or ZZR1400. At long last, after an uninterrupted eight-year run, the Hayabusa had a proper predator that hunted in the same grounds as the Busa. The ZZR wasn’t a half-hearted effort either. Like the Hayabusa, it was a realistic motorcycle with one particularly well-developed ability – a jaw-droppingly intense headlong rush that only dissipated in the face of the gentleman’s agreement. So, here it is, ladies and gentlemen, Suzuki’s not-so-subtle icon, the 2008 Hayabusa.

It is perhaps appropriate that Zareer Porbunderwallah owns this orange and black beauty. Yes, I do not use that last word in jest. And I’ll come to that in a bit. Years ago, it was Zareer who had the first Busa in India; the copper-silver motorcycle was the highlight of our January, 2000 issue (see box). Since that motorcycle, Zareer has owned six more Hayabusas, and India’s first 2008 Hayabusa is Zareer’s eighth. And like the first one, which he had in launch colours, orange-black are the launch colours for the 2008 as well. He’s not actually had this bike for that long, but that the 2008 is a step forward is clear. Perhaps the most noticeable of the traits is the new smoothness in the inline four motor, that actually shows up the brilliant old one.   So what did Suzuki do to the old one? They let the Hayabusa stay in the space it created for itself, and made it more intense in every way. No 916-999 kind of big steps involved. Just steady, smart evolution.Visually, the motorcycle looks the same. More or less. When you look closer, you will notice the new headlight – still ugly and still very much a Hayabusa. The fairing is smoother and the screen now rises a teensy bit higher, ostensibly for moments when the throttle cable is being stretched. The tank top is lower as well, allowing more room to tuck in when you finally turn onto a salt flat. At the rear, the stalk-mounted indicators have been chucked for faired indicators. Overall, the bike grows about five centimetres longer, while retaining the same 1485 mm wheelbase. 

On the engine front, the compression was boosted from 11:1 to 12.5:1, a serious rise. Combined with a 2 mm rise in stroke – 41cc more – this raises the bar for the Hayabusa engine. Suzuki added titanium valves, high strength con rods and the dual injector per cylinder fuel injection system that they honed on the brilliant GSX-R1000 to round the motor out. And blam! 11 percent more performance. Power is up to almost 180 bhp at the rear wheel, while torque is sitting pretty at 15 kgm. It’s the motorcycle equivalent of saying that the neighbourhood bully just purchased a nuclear-tipped bazooka. The numbers firmly eclipse the ZX-14 and like Suzuki planned, re-establish the supremacy of the Hayabusa. To handle that kind of power, the new Suzuki has a slipper clutch and the 6-speed transmission remains as smooth and slick as I can remember – a typical Suzuki trait.

Suzuki also endowed the Hayabusa with the S-DMS switch, or the Suzuki Drive Mode Selector. The switch, which appears with an up and down arrow on the right side switch gear, selects three engine modes. The A mode is full power, B tunes it down a bit and the C mode is for wimps. Well, actually, like Zareer points out, the C mode is actually pretty useful. When Mumbai gets wet, which is four months a year minimum, having a friendly Busa that is down on power and makes it softly would probably be a boon. Finally, the classy-looking (and voluminous) exhaust system is a new 4-2-1-2 job that uses a larger new catalyzer to meet emissions norms, and looks cool with the triangular cans and chrome tops. 

All of that mechanical goodness is housed, as we said, in the slightly tweaked new bodywork. The chassis changes are relatively minor, including a new fully adjustable USD fork with an anti-stiction coating, new rear shock and an evolution of the twin-spar aluminium frame. The new braced aluminium frame features a new shape for greater rigidity and is supposed to help the rear tyre grip and not feel so helpless under the engine’s mighty onslaught. Final details? Radial callipers on 310 mm front rotors and new wheels.At the rear, there is the controversial new tail light cluster with LED lights that looks exactly the same as the headlight,but in red. Controversial? Well, Pablo for one, and many others, think it looks like a scooter rear-end.Now to the point; how is the 2008 Hayabusa? Oh, it’s great. Ridden slowly, which I did while getting familiar, it feels special and at the same time, familiar. 

You’d have to be foolish to snap the throttle wide open, and when you are gentle on it, it responds beautifully. The response is crisp without being sportsbike-instant and at low speeds, the Busa feels friendly and easy to ride. While a U-turn, for instance, on a litre-bike is a pretty scary thing until you get used to the throttle-clutch-brake setup, on a Hayabusa, which is noticeably heavier, its easy-peasy. No funny waddling about is needed before you pull confident 5 kph U-turns with your feet up.Then you start inching the throttle more and more open. The engine is so powerful, it makes the gearbox look like a cheesy add-on. Whenever you roll the throttle open, the engine note deepens and the Hayabusa responds with a smooth surge forward. The intensity never diminishes, but it doesn’t scare you, it almost gently urges you to try more. It’s like petting your tame rottweiler, in many ways. The most satisfying thing about the Hayabusa is the pace it is capable of. 

Find the space and allow the motorcycle some leeway, and it’s an absolute speed freak. Without intimidating you (and this is the part that’s so hard to get right), it will rapidly gather speed and rush forward. The pace is unrelenting and there is so much headroom that if you were on the autobahn and cruising at 250 kph, overtaking a surprised Porsche would require no effort at all. Just a hint more of the throttle and that pesky 911 would rapidly dwindle to a dot in the mirrors. There are very few automobiles that can accelerate with such authority and fewer still that can cruise so effortlessly at those speeds.And despite the dragstrip prowess, the Hayabusa would be a great saddle to be in when you turn off that autobahn and head up into the mountains. It is heavy, but not ponderous and once you get used to it, you can reel off corners with confidence. It isn’t an especially quick steering motorcycle, but it’s ultra-stable, responsive and whatever it might lose to another, lighter machine entering a corner, it will make up in being utterly forgiving and possessing demonic drive out of the corner. The new brakes do make their presence felt as does the slipper clutch, because it is entirely possible to get carried away and leave braking a bit late. 

It is noticeably smoother than the older 1299cc ‘Busa, significantly faster and feels marginally more agile. Like the designer Hiroshi Lio intended, the Hayabusa is unmistakable, and in the new version, even more so.But perhaps the best news about the 2008 Hayabusa is that it might officially be headed here. Suzuki has already spoken of its CBU plans for India, and they are expected to materialise later this year, or at the very latest by the middle of next year.  

Among the model names being bandied about, the Hayabusa seems to be the only constant. And why not? Between its own iconic status and John Abraham’s considerable efforts in Dhoom, the thing is a cult classic in India. It’d be silly not to offer the one superbike that everyone, street urchins upwards, recognise as a Hayabusa in India. It won’t be cheap. But it will, I guarantee, be just right.