MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.
Can Suzuki catch up?
Suzuki’s MotoGP effort seemed to go backwards last year, so what must the factory do to close the gap to the front-runners?
Suzuki has a lot to do in 2018, mostly to erase the memory of a gloomy 2017. Any factory team fighting back from difficult times is under a lot of pressure; but probably none more so than Suzuki, where the factory management has never seemed that dedicated to Grand Prix racing. Unlike Honda and Yamaha, Suzuki has drifted in and out of the premier-class over the past few decades, so this year Andrea Iannone and Álex Rins need some good results to keep the Suzuki Motor Corporation signing off budgets.
Suzuki returned to MotoGP in 2015 after a three-year absence and scored its first-ever dry-weather MotoGP victory in 2016. The all-new GSX-RR was a superb motorcycle: rider-friendly, fine-handling; all it needed was more grunt and fully sorted electronics.
During 2016 Maverick Viñales scored a total of four podiums, while Aleix Espargaró was fast but wayward. When Viñales defected to Yamaha, Suzuki decided to jettison Espargaró, which took them into 2017 with a risky all-new rider line-up: one rookie and one Maniac.
Last year Suzuki didn’t score a single podium. Its best results were two fourth places, Iannone at Motegi (18 seconds behind the winner) and Rins at Valencia (13 seconds behind the winner). It best race, timewise, was Australia, where Iannone finished sixth, 3.8 seconds off the win; but Phillip Island can flatter to deceive.
“We are always working to improve our bike, but maybe sometimes we go in the wrong way,” admits Suzuki’s MotoGP technical manager Ken Kawauchi. “Last year some parts of the bike did improve, but some parts were worse compared to 2016. At some tracks the bike worked well, at other tracks it was much worse.”
Suzuki has a huge gap to close, so which areas of performance are its main focus?
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.