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East meets East.

Stephen Hawkins

Experienced Gentleman.
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The recent thread about motorbikes took me back to my callow youth in the early 60's, when my friends and I would travel over to the Isle of Man to watch the World famous TT races. Japanese bikes had started to compete in all categories of racing, but were at their best in the lightweight classes.

The 50 cc category was always hotly contested, and had been dominated for some years by the West German manufacturer, Kreidler, and the East German MZ company. Honda started to win races in the 50 cc category in (about) 1961/2, and Suzuki set their minds on beating Honda.

MZ had a brilliant engineer and works rider by the name of Ernst Degner. Herr Degner was unhappy about the dead hand of the Soviet Union on his country, and yearned to escape from its tyranny. Suzuki were very keen to have Herr Degner on their team, and arranged his defection from East Germany.

From the time of Degner's defection, Suzuki started to win races in the 50 cc class. His engineering skill allowed Suzuki to develop Degner's designs for many years, culminating in the 1968 RP68 triple cylinder model.

The RP68 was a 50 cc machine with two forward facing, horizontal cylinders, and one vertical cylinder. It revved at 19,000 rpm, and had a 14 speed gearbox. The torque band was between 17,000 & 17,500 rpm, which is the reason it had so many gears.

To give you an idea of just how radical this engine was in its day, it developed the equivalent of 450 bhp per litre. Impressive by any standard.

The governing body pulled the plug on 50 cc racing in about 1969, which I still believe was counter productive. The technology which was developed for these diminutive bikes drove innovation in the larger classes. Okay, they sounded like a swarm of demented wasps, but those little 2 stroke engines were fantastic. I have spent many happy hours sat at Bray Hill, listening to those little bikes (and the bigger ones) throttling back for the bend at Quarter Bridge.

Kind Regards,

Stephen.
 

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