With two-times Australian Superbike champion Malcolm ‘Wally’ Campbell in the saddle, Ray Berrey’s 1980 Suzuki RG500 MkV serves it up to the big four-strokes big time – as Campbell’s 2009 Phillip Island lap record attests to.
Suzuki’s 500cc square-four GP racer was the popular choice for privateers from 1976 through to 1983, when Honda’s RS500 triple arrived on the scene. However, finding a RG500 in race-ready condition these days is no easy task.
“A race series in Ireland for cars with RG500 engines served as a ready destination for old RG500s,” says Berrey. “There aren’t many complete bikes left, even with all the RG500s that came to Australia in ’76 through to ’78, although it’s surprising the number of new parts that are still available.
“I got a brand new set of forks from Mick Hone Motorcycles, and I bought a lot of spares from Mick Damon in Tasmania. I changed the throttle-grip assembly though to a Yamaha one, as the genuine RG500 magnesium one costs 2500 pounds ($A5000) to replace.”
The RG500 MkV Berrey bought was sourced in the UK, and was the spare bike for British racer Stanley Woods. Just 35 MkV RGs were built by the factory in 1980.
Used RG500s can be bought for around 8500 pounds ($A17,000), but they’re generally in no condition to race.
“A RG500 in racing condition is worth $60,000 to $70,000,” says Berrey. “There are only a handful of RG500s in the world that are being regularly raced.”
One can’t help but think none of them are as fast as one with Wally at the controls…