BLUE THUNDER 1100 Vs. HONDA CB1100R


Standing back I admired the way My 1100cc Suzuki Katana I had affectionately named Blue Thunder glistened in the bright sunlight. Her vibrant, almost magical bright blue metallic paint fighting for attention with the acres of hand polished alloy and chrome that adorned her flanks. She was truly beautiful. Her gorgeous, futuristic Italian and German styling stood her apart from even the latest bikes that were ten years her junior. The German TARGA design team had excelled back in '82.

It was a lazy Sunday morning and I had I had just finished her weekly wash and routine maintenance. I had spent all week fettling her carburetors, trying out a different sized mainjet each day on my run to work and stripping down the bank of four carbs each night to replace the jets for the following day's test run.

It was entirely the mufflers fault. Two weeks prior Matt and I had been ripping up the back blocks of the Hunter Valley Vineyards when Blue Thunder suddenly went off song and started making a scary, terminal rattling sound. After some roadside investigation I found the secondary baffle in the polished alloy muffler had self destructed and was floating around inside the can making a terrible noise. Blue Thunder was now running lean at high revs so I nursed my baby the 100 odd klicks home.

The following week at work saw Matt (who was a boilermaker) performing drastic surgery on the muffler.

"What do you want me to do with it Richo?" he asked as we stood in the middle of the huge workshop.
"Man, can you chop the tapered end off, rip out the secondary baffle and weld on a new end with a hole the size of your fist ?" I replied. I reasoned that seeing as Blue Thunder was so mean, it was only fitting to give her an extremely menacing exhaust system that was loud enough to scare little old ladies, children and small mammals.

Around smoko I got a call over my two-way to go and see Matt.


"We have a problem mate" he said, matter of factly.
"What?" I asked.
"Have a look at the size of the Primary baffle" he said as he held up the muffler with the end chopped off. "Its diameter is fucking huge" Matt exclaimed, "Do you know how loud this thing is gonna be?" he asked, already reading the answer in my eyes.
"Just weld the fucker up Matty, nyuk, nyuk" I sniggered.

Blue Thunder will rock !!! I think to myself.

Pulling on my helmet jerked me back to the present and I thought about where I was going to take Blue Thunder on her after wash shakedown run. I decided on my usual short 20 km loop into Newcastle's CBD, returning home along the scenic beach road. Casting my eyes over the black faced instrument panel I smiled at "stumpy" and thumbed the starter button. Blue Thunder sprang to life and settled into a deep rumbling idle.

The ride into town was uneventful and I immersed myself in the sheer majesty of sunny blue skies, warm weather and the wind in my face. Life is good.

I had just passed Bar Beach when I spotted him up ahead. "That bloody Honda rider," I grumbled under my breath. He rode a fully restored and modified CB1100R race replica and I had seen him in traffic numerous times over the last six months but could never seem to catch him going the same way.

In the litre class superbike wars of the late 70's and early 80's there were three big players from Japan. Suzuki had its GSX1100's in various guises, Kawasaki its GPZ 900's and 1000's and Honda its CB900's and its special race replica CB1100R. All three manufactured machines that could turn 10 second miles all day.

Blue Thunder wanted to race. She was running sweet and smooth as I had finally got the jetting right and I swear she had a mind of her own, urging me on. I couldn't help but admire the job this fellow had done on his Honda as I stalked him through the mobile chicanes (cars). The CB1100R looked splendid in its red and white livery with anodized gold highlights. Moving closer I noticed the big dollar Yoshimura exhaust system and wondered whether Blue Thunder had the balls to take on the big Honda.

He saw me loom large in his mirrors just as we rounded the give way corner into Scenic Drive. A long uphill with more twists and turns than a snake that's been hit by a ute, it is one of my personal favourites. It is outstanding because it has two lanes on the uphill side of the road.

"C'mon Blue Thunder" I yelled, full of enthusiasm as the big Honda pulled a 30 meter wheelstand out of second. Savagely wrenching the open the throttle, Blue Thunder shook her head from the instant wheelspin and launched harder than she ever had. The amazed faces at the Beaches Hotel saw a red / white and blue flash race past in an instant before disappearing towards the bottom of the giant hill.

"Fuck that Honda's got some grunt" I think as I chase hard in third, powering towards the first big right hand sweeper. The Honda's brake light is on and I hear him change down to second before the pair of us peel off to the right and start our charge up the hill. This will be a sheer horsepower test I think to myself as a small red sedan comes screaming at us backwards at 100 kmh and is gone in the blink of an eye.

I too changed down at the bottom of the hill but now we're both in third and coming out of the sweeper at full noise. I quickly discover that Blue Thunder has no power advantage over the Honda as I cannot gain ground in the uphill drag race to the next bumpy left. I drift wider to the right than the Honda on the entry to the left and brake late to close the right up on his rear tyre. Back to second, I peel in a fraction early to get inside him and hold the inside line.

Across two lanes we go, heeled over in unison in a deadly high speed dance. I redlined her out of second and over-revved her to 11,000 then back on the brakes for the sharp little nasty kinked right. That maneuver bought me the lead as the big Honda redlined second, snatched third, then immediately shifted back to second again. He had the inside lane for this corner though and I wasn't far enough in front of him to cut across his bows and apex the corner. I was stuck in my lane.

Braking hard, Blue Thunder displayed her characteristic little shimmy and the Honda braked really late, pulling level with a screeching rear tyre right before we tipped them in.

"Fuck this cunt is fucking mad !!"I thought as I watched the big red machine slowly creeping past mid corner, both of us grinding pegs and stands. Again we gun hard out of second, but he has got me by a bike length going into the next big left.

The next left hander is deadly. In the first half of the corner (which is all you can see from the approach) it evenly carves to its highest point and goes blind around a small bluff, then it gets very interesting, very fast. When you crest the rise half way through the corner it tightens up on the exit. It's not something that you really notice much at the posted 60kmh; however it becomes a big problem at double that.

From our entry speeds I deduce that the CB1100R rider knows the road too, but I brake late anyway to pull level as we tip into the tricky big left. I broke all the rules and shifted to third mid corner, just as I cranked Blue Thunder right down to pull a sharp line where it gets tight. Hard on the gas in third Blue Thunder pulls like a rocket, but not wildly like she would in second. I heard the Honda wheel spinning madly as he tries to claw back the bike length I just jumped.

"Blue Thunder is gonna kick your god damned fucking arse" I hissed through gritted teeth as I looked up at the final right. It is a really tricky son-of-a-bitch with a double apex about 30 meters apart, the first part of the curve about 60 degrees and the second about 90 degrees followed by a short steep uphill straight to the top.

"I've only gotta hold this lead" I thought as we raced towards the corner. Blue Thunder was pulling like a freight train now and I held the power on well past my usual braking point. Still I made no further ground on the Honda and he was stuck to my rear end like glue. I needed to double apex the corner across two lanes or I wasn't going to make it, I was totally committed now.

Blue Thunder's rear end was slewing around a lot under the savagely desperate braking as I pulled out my last card. Drifting left at the entry point I let the rear end wander slightly to the left before reefing her over to the right. A dangerous move, as the slightest misjudgment means a very nasty high side. Steadily, and with my heart in my mouth I peel off hard and gently release the rear brake in a controlled movement. I heard the Honda skidding for an eternity as I cut across both lanes, my knee just inches off the double white lines.

Gunning it hard out of second, I straighten her up and apprehensibly wonder if the Honda rider fell...

No. There he is in my mirrors, rapidly growing smaller.

He had been shaken not stirred.



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