There is no better person to ask about Suzuki’s lack of involvement in the FIM Motocross World Championship than Kevin Strijbos, who has spent eleven seasons of his career in yellow. Wow, time does fly. Strijbos was on a RM-Z450 as recently as last term – his self-funded operation crumbled when Suzuki would not even provide him with free bikes for the current season. Yes, even free bikes were a stretch and thus there is absolutely no yellow in the Grand Prix paddock.
When queried about Suzuki and the chances of the manufacturer leaping back into the Grand Prix scene, Strijbos was not full of hope. “What is the scale? 10% [out of a possible 100], but maybe not that,” he told MX Vice after the Czech round. “I do not have contact with them. Not anymore. They do not build new bikes, so if they do not have new bikes then for sure they are not going to come back. I think at least for two or three years they are not going to come back. I wish they would. I am hoping for it! They are like a family, and I was there for a long time. It is sad that they are not here, but I guess that they have their reasons.”
Building a new bike has been somewhat of a hot topic as of late. There were promising rumours that a new RM-Z450 was coming as soon as 2022, but then those fizzled out rather rapidly and nothing is going to change in the immediate future. It is thought that a new bike is still in the pipeline though, and it could arrive as soon as 2023, which would give the manufacturer a needed boost in relevancy. Details on what said machine could include are sparse, but it would be modernised and include an electric start at the very least. A change that is as simple (and now dated) as that would drastically alter opinions.
The problem that both Triumph and Suzuki are going to face is similar, bizarrely. Piecing a factory outfit together from scratch would be an almighty challenge (and expense) at this point. Aligning with an active team, and simply supplying support and going through a rebrand, would be the easiest way to enter the realm of Grand Prix racing. The decision to not throw Strijbos a lifeline with bikes was puzzling for that very reason though: Had they handed him bikes and kept the KSRT team on the road, that could have been their pathway back into racing. Consider it a safety net of sorts. Why give up such a thing unless there is no desire to return? There lies the concern.
Suzuki has not fielded a Grand Prix effort since 2017 – it was longer ago than one would typically think. The idea that “it is only going to be a couple more years” has been floating around ever since and yet there has been no movement. The KSRT effort was another sign of hope and that ultimately led to disappointment. Is it time to let go? Hey, Triumph is around the corner.
Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: Ray Archer