Graeme Boyd


SUZUKI'S TL1000R must have one of the most chequered  careers  in motorcycle  racing  history. Unveiled to a waiting world here in Australia in 1998, the TL-R was much hyped as the racetrack- ready version of Suzuki's potent V-twin sports machine. In its technical literature, the factory was clear about the TL- R's intended purpose. "The TL1000R concept is simple, build a machine capable of setting new performance standards for a 1000cc V-twin, with the potential to win Superbike races. 

Everyone knew the TL engine was a stormer, with the potential for on-track success,it just needed the right chassis. With the arrival of the TL-R, all the ingredients looked to be there, the GSX-R-inspired twin- spar frame, dual-stage fuel injection with two injectors per cylinder, altered cam timing, lighter con-rods and pistons, and an extensive... no, a bloody huge race kit. Yet there were deficiencies, The controversial rotary damper rear suspension system from the TL-S was retained, and attracted criticism but it was difficult to setup properly and had a propensity to fade quickly at track speeds.  

The TLR was also heavy, heavier than the TL-S, and seemed to lack The raw brutal edge of itís S designated sibling, despite offering more power, meanwhile teams as prestigious as Yoshimura R&D in the US A and others in Japan built, tested , raced and generally struggled with TL100-R superbikes with precious little success, until word came down that the V-twin racing project was to be abandoned, to focus efforts on the then-new fuel-injected, in- line four GSX-R750 Superbike. 

In little more than 12 months, the TL1000R had flitted briefly across the world Superbike stage, going from potential race-winner to also-ran. But it wasn't quite the end of the story. Back home in Australia, a road racer named Graeme Wilshaw was looking for a fresh challenge. 

Wilshaw had spent the last three seasons trying his hand at privateer level in the Australian Superbike Championship, but a new direction was beckoning. The growing Formula Xtreme series seemed to be the hot ticket, but then there was the matter of a bike to ride. Through his Superbike racing, Wilshaw had been associated with Suzuki for 10 years and wanted to retain the link. However, Suzuki didn't have a contender in its range for the Formula Xtreme Outright class, so Wilshaw's gaze fell upon the TL-R and the Xtreme Thunderclass for twins and triples. "I'd always thought the TL1000R was an underrated motorcycle," Wilshaw said. "The engine had always impressed me and I thought it had the potential to do well in the Thunderclass series.Suzuki coughed up a bike - one of the TL-Rs used at the world press launch at Eastern Creek in early 1998, actually, and the fun began. 

Early on in the piece, Wilshaw called in tuning guru Mark Woolfrey to help with the task of setting up the Suzuki V- twin. Woolfrey's first aim was to put the slightly porky TL-R on a crash diet. Anything not absolutely essential to either the TL-R's operation or the Formula Xtreme rules was removed or replaced with a lighter substitute. 

The end result is a bike that weighs 183kg ready to roll, a big improvement on the stock TL-R's claimed 197kg dry figure. "The weight reduction played a major part in making the bike so good to ride," Wilshaw said. "Removing the starter motor, starter clutch and weights on the crank lost 7kg straight up, and the rest has come from using lighter brackets." Another important change has been to swap the standard Suzuki rotary damper and separate spring rear suspension system for a more conventional Ohlins shock. The Ohlins shock is fully adjustable for ride height, compression and rebound damping and spring preload and comes in kit form for the TL-R conversion. "There are a lot of brackets involved in getting the Ohlin s to fit, but it works well. we have changed the length of the shock to fine tune the setup too" Wilshaw explained.