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The key to a champion – SUZUKI GSX-R1000R | BIKE TESTS

Fancy a spin on Josh Waters’ ASBK title-winning Gixxer? Yes please, said Steve Martin

Questions, questions… I had posed plenty of them at the international launch of the new Suzuki GSX-R1000R at Phillip Island in February, just weeks before it was due to compete in the 2017 Australian Superbike Championship.

Could the latest version of this iconic model regain the crown its predecessor once held? Could a completely new model be a winner straight out of the box? Would it even be good enough to take it to the rest? What chance did a newly formed team have of success in such a tough competition, even with factory backing?

Eight months later we had all the answers. Not only was the new Gixxer a winner, but so was the Canberra Motorcycle Centre Team Suzuki Ecstar outfit that had been formed little more than a month before the start of the season. This new team had an amazing debut season as 30-year-old Waters – returning to Australia after three years racing in the UK – rode to an unexpected third ASBK title.

The deal with Suzuki Australia and the Canberra Motorcycle Centre had come about very quickly.

CMC managing director Dale Brede, a 42-year-old former car racer who finished seventh at Bathurst in 2005, moved into the bike world in 2015 when he bought the dealership. With a passion for racing, he decided to approach Suzuki and explore the possibilities. As luck would have it, Suzuki had already decided to race the new superbike and wanted to involve both Waters and legendary Suzuki tuner Phil Tainton, who had helped Waters to his previous Superbike titles in 2009 and 2012. Just two weeks before the launch of the new model, Brede found himself with his own little super team for the 2017 season.

The first few rounds of the championship went as might have have been expected. There were a few teething problems, but there were promising signs in those early rounds too, as Waters and the Ecstar team showed glimpses of speed with a bike that many others had shunned for 2017 because it was so new. The consistency wasn’t there, but that was hardly surprising given that they were still finding their feet.

After regrouping during the winter break, the team headed to Darwin for the fourth of seven rounds better prepared. And it wasn’t just the weather that was hot in the Territory that weekend because Waters did something rather special, decimating the field with a display of total domination in winning the two races. So much for his pre-season hopes of simply scoring a podium before the end of the year.

“Darwin really changed things for me,” Josh says. “I had a really good feel with the bike.”

Another double victory in the penultimate round at Sydney Motorsport Park suddenly saw the L-platers of the series in with a real shot of winning the championship at their first attempt.

Read the full story int he current issue and Yearbook (Vol 67 No 12) of AMCN on sale now!