At last year’s final MotoGP round, held at Valencia, Suzuki’s heralded return to Grand Prix racing looked to be in tatters. Their racer come tester, The Number-14, Randy de Puniet, seemingly couldn’t even sit on the bike without it blowing an engine.
They’d taken part to prepare for 2015, and although it didn’t look good on the face of it, what actually happened was that they made sure it worked when the new season kicked off. Quite how they’ve made it work, aside from claiming some dodgy parts were the issue in Spain, is anyone’s guess considering how secretive the GP paddock is about technical details.
What’s clear from the first few races of this new season is that reliability seems to have been sorted. However, has it come at a cost? The Suzuki is quite a bit slower than its rivals, and not much faster on long straights than Aprilia’s effort. Both Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Vinales have been doing sterling work : qualifying well and getting half decent results thus far. But being so far down on top speed means they have to work extra hard in the turns to keep it up, and thus their tyres get shredded faster, meaning the inevitable drop off in performance after a few laps.
So, is the bike just slow, or has Suzuki had to turn something down to make them last ? Answers on a postcard please!
We doubt we’ll ever get an official explanation. And until Suzuki can sort that out, neither of their riders will be able to mount a sustained race long challenge – apart from maybe one or two tracks, like Assen or Sachsenring. The flowing, yet tight and twisty nature of both could play to the Suzuki’s current sweethandling strengths. It’s fair to say that Suzuki has already got the best looking bike on the grid (bar the BMW safety bike), and it’d be great if they could manage a podium or two this year, if only to upset the establishment.
However, a case could still be made as to why Suzuki has come back to MotoGP at all? A lot of it depends on what we see happen with the production bikes in the next couple of years. Aside from having Rossi on a bike, the relevance of Grand Prix to direct sales has all but vanished. It’s arguable that production-based WSB has a more direct connection, but in that arena Suzuki is flagging, and have been for years.
We ’d want their latest GP foray to push the road bikes and, by proxy, the production race efforts. In BSB and WSB Suzuki has been struggling, and now with TAS moving to BMW there are no big Suzuki squads in road racing or at the TT this year. That’s a huge miss, yet they can’t expect teams to keep flogging a dead horse. Crescent’s efforts have been hugely laudable in WSB, but they’ve been, and continue to be, up against it without anything new to race.
Should Suzuki’s MotoGP efforts bear fruit, then that’s great, and we certainly hope that’s what happens, and soon. But if it doesn’t, what’s the point in burning tens of millions of Euros into what is essentially a vanity trip? The same could be said of Aprilia, too, and the last time they blew wads on MotoGP, they went bankrupt…