Suzuki's support for motorcycling internationally and in New Zealand has been legendary, the brand enjoying outstanding successes and a high profile in many different areas over the years.
Riders of the popular yellow brand have long enjoyed winning national and international titles – Suzuki riders especially prominent in New Zealand with their dominance of the superbike road-race scene over the past few decades, but also in tasting major wins on the enduro, cross-country and motocross scenes as well.
The Suzuki brand powered the remarkable national title-title winning streak enjoyed by Hamilton's Andrew Stroud – a record nine-time New Zealand Superbike Champion between 1991 and 2011 – with Suzuki riders such as Christchurch's Dennis Charlett, Auckland's Jaden Hassan, Wellington's Sloan Frost and Glen Eden's current champion Daniel Mettam following in his wheel tracks with national title wins of their own in the years that followed.
It is staggering to believe, but Suzuki riders have won the premier superbike class title in New Zealand for 16 of the past 18 seasons and Mettam begins his national superbike title defence with the first of five rounds of the 2020 New Zealand Superbike Championships in Christchurch this coming weekend.
Suzuki is also synonymous with the national motocross title wins celebrated by riders such as Hawera's Daryl Hurley, the enduro and cross-country wins savoured by Marton's Cam Smith and Taupo's Brad Groombridge and even the numerous national ATV title wins captured by Taumarunui's Quentin Palmer.
It is obvious that Suzuki New Zealand has satisfied the appetites of the motorcycling industry, race fans, sponsors, casual riders and top-tier racers alike over many years, but the company has now decided to "butter the bread a little bit differently" in the future.
"Following more than two decades of domination in the Superbike class in New Zealand, Suzuki has decided to end direct support for our current Superbike team riders following the completion of this year's national championship series," said Simon Meade, Suzuki New Zealand's general manager of Motorcycle/ATV/Marine Marketing.
"This was a difficult and complex decision to make and highlights the reality of our changing market place and increasing costs to go racing," he said.
"The old adage that 'what wins on Sunday, sells on Monday', is a thing of the past and, for the past 10 to 15 years, our sponsorship of motorcycle racing has been focused on building events for riders and customers."
He pointed to the phenomenally-popular Suzuki International Series as an example of where Suzuki has been serving the motorcycling community so well.
The 2019 edition of the Suzuki International Series again attracted massive interest from overseas, with large crowds flocking to the public streets of Whanganui for the series finale on Boxing Day.
"For the future, we will work within our budgets to support motorcycle racing to the best of our ability. Exactly how this translate into event sponsorship and satellite team support has yet to be decided," said Meade.
Suzuki's introduction of the GIXXER Cup competition at the end of 2017 was pure inspiration and another great example of how the company has been serving the sport and the wider bike community.
First created by Suzuki New Zealand in December 2017 with the aim of providing a starting place and a pathway towards "growing future champions", the GIXXER Cup class was slotted into the Suzuki International Series programme and it immediately proved to be a runaway success.
Many of the young riders who had their first taste of motorcycle road-racing with the inaugural GIXXER Cup contest in 2017 are now out on the track and racing in some of the bigger bike classes – Formula Two and Formula Three, for example – and it probably won't be long before the momentum takes a few of them on through to the elite superbike ranks in years to come.
It is interesting to note that Jesse Stroud, one of the sons of Suzuki's superbike legend Andrew Stroud, made it back-to-back GIXXER Cup title wins just after Christmas and perhaps he will be one of those young men who go on to forge even more successes with Suzuki in the coming years.
Words and photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com