staying the course
The last 10 years have seen the technology and business of racing change faster and more radically than at any point in the previous four decades.
On the track, we saw the rise of a new British star for the new century. After finishing sixth, then third overall in his first two seasons, John Reynolds thoroughly deserved his British Superbike title in 2004. His achievement, followed by Troy Corser’s Superbike World Championship the following year, added new lustre to the GSX-R1000’s formidable reputation.
Meanwhile, we were still winning races – and legions of fans – on the Isle of Man, where it all began. Bruce Anstey continued our long run of TT success with four straight Superstock titles on the GSX-R1000 between 2004 and 2007, while in 2008, Cameron Donald won the Dainese Superbike TT.
As we enter the 2010s, our challenge is to move with the times, while staying true to ourselves and the sports we love. So far, so good.
ON TRACK OFF-ROAD
Fast, furious and TV-friendly, Supercross is currently one of the fastest-growing motorsports in America. It's another arena in which our bikes and riders can shine, building on our long-standing success in motocross around the world.
In Europe, racing off-road means being outdoors in all weathers. But in America, you have an indoor option, too. Heavily influenced by motocross, Supercross races are held on artificial tracks built in football or baseball stadiums: steep jumps and berms, tall obstacles and high speeds make them a real test for riders and machines - and a fantastic spectacle for the huge TV audiences they attract.
The AMA/FIM Supercross Championships is run over 15 rounds, with classes for 250cc and 450cc machines. As the skills involved are broadly the same, many riders compete in both Supercross and motocross. A prime example is Ricky Carmichael, from Clearwater, Florida.
Carmichael claimed his first Supercross title in 2001; he retained it in 2002, while also winning all 24 races in the National Motocross series. A third Supercross title followed in 2003, but a crash kept him out of contention in 2004.
In 2005, Carmichael joined Suzuki, riding the RM250 to overall victory in Supercross. He also piloted the RM-Z450 - the world's first fuel-injected MX bike - to 22 wins in 24 races in National Motocross.
But Carmichael isn't the only Suzuki rider to taste success in both sports. In 2000, French rider Mickaël Pichon, who'd already won two World Supercross championships in the USA, returned to Europe to help Suzuki regain the World Motocross title it had last won in 1994. In 2001, he achieved his goal, then repeated it the following year winning a record-breaking 10 of the 14 rounds.
A major shake-up of the sport by its governing body, the FIM, created new opportunities for Suzuki. The MXGP 250 class was renamed MX1 and opened to four-stroke machines up to 450cc. In 2005, Suzuki fielded the powerful team of five-time champion Joel Smets and promising 18-year-old Kevin Strijbos, who finished his second full season an impressive fifth overall.
Strijbos proved his class by finishing as runner-up the following year. By then, he'd been joined on the team by another former champion, Steve Ramon. The two Belgian stars rode their RM-Z450s to second and third places respectively, and it seemed a World title was within their grasp.
And in 2007, they took it. A string of high finishes right through the season clinched the overall title for Ramon, while 14 podium places, including double heats at the Czech GP, secured second for Strijbos. The result also handed the Manufacturer's title to Suzuki.
Motocross has always allowed the stars of tomorrow to rise quickly through the ranks. In 2009, Suzuki MX2 rider Ken Roczen became, at just 15 years 53 days, the youngest-ever winner GP winner, when he claimed a home win in the German Grand Prix at Teutschenthal.