Monday, July 12, 2010

1977 Suzuki RN400 De Coster


In the late 1970s, Roger DeCoster was winding down one of the most successful careers in the history of motocross. And this full-on works RN400 is the bike that allowed him to go out in style.

It was 1977, and the racer still known as “The Man” was defending his championship in the Trans-AMA series, which pitted European stars against the Americans in the fall series on U.S. soil.
A Belgian, DeCoster represented the last of the old-school MXers, a five-time world champion going up against the rising stars of the Supercross generation—riders like Bob Hannah, Marty Smith and Brad Lackey.

To nail his fourth Trans-AMA title, he needed something special—a bike that took full advantage of the U.S. rules of the time that allowed one-off factory race machines.Everything about the motorcycle was designed to go fast. It had a billet aluminum fork and remote-reservoir works shocks. The swingarm and chrome-moly chassis were modified for additional strength and weight savings. Overall, the bike weighed a svelte 209 pounds.

It was the best equipment the Suzuki factory could design, which was certainly fitting treatment for the company’s star rider. And thanks in part to this bike, DeCoster was able to outshine the young guns and win the ’77 Trans-AMA title.

As it turned out, that championship would be the last of DeCoster’s storied career. A lingering practice injury in 1978 hampered his world championship effort, while in the U.S., a series-long duel with “Hurricane” Hannah in the Trans-AMA series wound up with Hannah on top.

DeCoster, of course, went on to become a successful team manager here in the states, overseeing the first title-winning U.S. Motocross of Nations team in 1981, and running Honda’s factory team and then Suzuki’s team, which he still leads today.


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