The story of the Suzuki RM250 isn’t just about a single motorcycle; it’s about a dynasty of bikes, championships and riders that goes back to a glorious era in the
history of motocross. Forty-five years ago, motocross was
an obscure European sport. In America, we loved flat track
and hill climbing. Even in Europe, road racing was a far
more popular sport. No one really saw any future in the
cult sport of motocross.
No one, that is, besides a group of very insightful people
at Suzuki. Back in 1965, Suzuki launched a massive development program to build the world’s best motocross bike.
It wasn’t based on market research, computer forecasts or
industrial analysis; it was all about gut instinct and passion.
The program came to life through the efforts of Mr.
Okano, general manager of research and development,
and racing manager Mr. Ishikawa. Both men were passion-
ate about racing, and, for some reason, motocross cap-
tured their imagination. The first product of the program
was the RH66, a prototype 250cc racer with a number of
odd features, like a crankshaft-mounted clutch. It wasn’t
very good, and the limited-production TM250 that followed
wasn’t any better. Things didn’t really start happening until
Suzuki hired Swede Olle Petersson in 1967 to both devel-
op and race the machine. He only made one suggestion
regarding the existing bike; he told them to throw it away
and start over. That set in motion an amazing success
story that resulted in a legacy of world championships
beginning with Joel Robert in 1970. Honda, Yamaha and
Kawasaki were years behind, and even the European mak-
ers were stunned.
The first and often the best
THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE
Joel Robert’s 1972 RH72 works bike was the most
advanced motocross bike of its day. Unfortunately,
the knowledge that Suzuki gleaned from the GPs
didn’t reach a production bike until 1976. The very
machine on which Robert earned his final championship is currently owned by Terry Good.