|People knew that 1979 was going to be a spectaculair season, Suzuki and Yamaha would both put their best efford to become world champion.
Just as they did in 1978 Yamaha deployed three works bikes and the drivers where; Kenny Roberts, Johnny Cecotto and French youngster Christian Sarron, Katayama switched to Honda who came for the first time since 1968 with a 500cc racer, a V4 4-stroke.
Suzuki came with five works bike for three teams ; Team Texaco Heron Suzuki with ; Barry Sheene, Steve Parrish and Irish man Tom Herron; Team Nava Olio Fiat Gallina, with ; Virginio Ferrari and Team Nimag Suzuki with ; Wil Hartog. In 1978 Hartog had been racing the second half of the season for Heron Suzuki and was offered a place in the team again but Hartog rather formed his own team. For Hartog racing was still a hobby (allthough he was one of the best) and he wanted to be loyal to Ton Riemersma who had been sponsering Wil for quiet some years and to Dutch importer Nimag who'd also ment a lot to him, if Hartog would sign for Team Heron Suzuki he couldn't put his longtime sponsors on his bike and another big issiue was; he had to wear a Team Heron overall instead of the white overall that made him famous as 'De Witte Reus' (the white giant), so Hartog choose loyalty above money but had still access to all the works material and was invited with Sheene and ferrari for the winter tests in Japan.
Suzuki invited the three riders to test their new bike; the XR27 . The bike stayed mainly the same, the engine was basicly the same only now the engine had casted cylinders with a steel bush pressed inside, this steel bush got a nikasil treatment. The biggest change to the bike was the frame, the upper main tube went straight to the swing-arm bracket instead of curved, this made the frame much bigger. To prevent the bike from climing in the chain Suzuki made a version with the radiator in the nose of the bike, the XR27BFR, this put more weight in front of the bike but it also raised the centre of gravity. While testing in Japan Sheene was very happy with the XR27BFR while Ferrari and Hartog didn't like the bike's handling since it had a higher centre point of gravity the bike was too tricky in cornering. Sheene wanted to use this bike for the championship but Suzuki forbid hime to race it without telling him why, Sheene did use a front radiator for his XR23B in match races. The new frame was so stiff that the nose dived too much on braking to preven this Suzuki develloped a hydraulic anti-dive system. When the driver would brake the brake fluid would not only activate the brake pads but it would also activate a device in the front fork that prevented to bike from diving. The anti-dive did change the handling of the bike but not how the drivers liked it, Hartog didn't like it at all and once he took the internal parts out of the system so it didn't work but for the eye it was still on the bike not to upset the Japanese.
For Suzuki 1979 would be a year with lots of frames. To improve the bike's handling teams and drivers were looking for what combination would be the best, some used 1977 frames other used RG500IV 'privateer' frames. Team Gallina was the first to use a 16" front wheel to improve bike handling, while other teams thought this would never work Gallina did the right thing, a 16" front wheel improved the bike's handling.
An other big thing for Suzuki was that their production bike, the RG500IV, proved to be a great bike this was utterly proved by Boet van Dulmen's win in Finland and when he and fellow countryman Jack Middelburg shared the Swedish podium with Sheene. Both of the Dutchmen started their first complete G.P. season and proved that they did belong in the scene, being amongst the best privateers that year and the years to come.
|XR27 Engine + New Frame|
|Wil Hartog ,Nimag Suzuki, Raalte Races|
|Sheene & Lucchinelli|
|Hartog & Baldwin|
|Virginio Ferrari||The first race of the year was the G.P. of Venuzuela, Roberts couldn't race because of a crash during testing in Japan. For most of the race it looked like no one could stop Hartog from winning the race until lap twelve when his front wheel blocked and Hartog crashed out of the race. Sheene won the race, Ferrari was second and Herron took the third place.|
|The second race was the Austrian G.P. at the Salzburgring, but it was not sure who would start since quiet some drivers were injured ;Sheene injured his wrist at Donnington, Hartog broke his arm at Zandvoort, Sarron was out of the running for a longer time after he crashed during the Brittish F750 race and Roberts was not sure if he was fit enough. Luckely for the crowd and the championship all of them except from Sarron could race. Practice was delayed because of a blizzard but when the drivers could start practice Roberts showed he was back. During the race only Ferrari could follow Roberts. Roberts won the race before Ferrari and Hartog, Sheene suffered from brake failured and finnished twelved . The next round was Germany, Hartog had his famous 'rocket' start again and led the race from start to finish, at the beginning of the race behind him the fight was between; Roberts, Van Dulmen (on his private RG500IV) ,Sheene and Ferrari. Van Dulmen and Sheene suffered engine failure so the race for second was between Roberts and Ferrari, a battle won by the American. In Imola Roberts ruled again , Hartog crashed out, Ferrari took second place before Herron and Sheene. The race in Madrid was a battle between Roberts and Hartog for most of the race, troubled by his injured arm Hartog had to settle for second place and American rookie Mike Baldwin took third place (RG500IV), Ferrari fourth, Uncini (RG500IV) fifth,Van Dulmen took sixth place (RG500IV) and Middelburg took seventh place (RG500IV) so it was ecspecially for the Suzuki privateers a great race they proved that you didn't need to have a works bike to finish in the higher regions. Tom Herron couldn't start the race, he crashed his bike during practice and got injured, despite his injury he did start the "North West 200" race the next weekend in his native Ireland. It would be Herron's last race, Herron fell in the last lap of the 1000cc class on his RG500 and got badly injured, Herron died of his injuries. For Suzuki Herron's dead was the first time one of their works racers got killed in a race.
|Van Dulmen, Middelburg & Parrish|
|Herron's last and fatal race.|