Classic Racer

SPACE AGE ON A SHOESTRING

I think it might have been me who called it ‘the cardboard box’, and the name stuck. Because that is what the chassis most resembled – a sharp-cornered structure of folded planes, in a sandwich material. The sheets enclosed aluminium honeycomb rather than corrugated paper, but the principal was the same: strength by internal reinforcement, stiffness without weight.

Like a cardboard box.

It represented a confluence of inspiration and desperation. Suzuki had unexpectedly pulled out of GP racing, one year after Honda’s new two-stroke had ended their now venerable square-four RG500 engine’s six-year domination of the constructors’ championship.

With rider Randy Mamola snapped up by Honda, it left his (and Barry Sheene’s) old Heron Suzuki team with nothing much to do.

Several people were crucial to what happened next. Riders of course: it would launch the GP careers of Rob McElnea and Niall Mackenzie. For Australian Paul Lewis it was a different kind of launch pad.

For Heron Suzuki director Dennis Rohan, it was a test of character and will, as he strove to convince the uninterested chairman and directors that racing was a worthwhile way of spending money.

For team manager Martyn Ogborne it was an inspiring project and nowadays part of a collection of unique racing memorabilia; for his successor GarryTaylor it was the start of a career that led to the factory team, and 500-class title wins with Kevin Schwantz and Kenny Roberts Jr.

But for its designer Nigel Leaper,

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