Randy de Puniet
Almost without realizing it, we find ourselves in the midst of a glut of motorcycle racing action. For 11 days, bikes and teams are testing, racing, and being introduced to the public at large. On Monday and Tuesday, the World Superbike teams had their last test of the pre-season at Phillip Island. From Tuesday to Thursday, the Moto2 and Moto3 teams are testing at Jerez. On Friday, the 2015 World Superbike season gets underway Phillip Island, culminating in the races on Sunday, featuring shock substitute Troy Bayliss. Then, from Monday, MotoGP returns for three days of testing at Sepang, followed by an extra day with Michelin tires, with the factory riders at the helm.
In between, we have seen the launch of the Ducati Desmosedici GP15, the CWM LCR Honda team is set to be launched on Wednesday, and there is even a presentation here in Holland by Eurosport, in which they will reveal their plans for MotoGP coverage in The Netherlands for 2015. There is so much going on that there are barely enough hours in the day to actually write about it. Enjoy the cornucopia while you can.
Crash! Bang! Wallop!
Before the 2015 World Superbike season gets underway, just seven days from now at Phillip Island, the WSBK and WSS riders get a final chance to prepare their bikes for the flag drops next Sunday. For the first time this year, all of the riders and bikes will be on track at the same time, and we will get a hint of the season to come.
As intriguing as it is likely to be, a note of caution should be sounded. Phillip Island is arguably the best track in the world for motorcycle racing, but all the reasons that make it such a great track for racing mean it is very far from being a very good yardstick to measure performance by. The track flows beautifully, a succession of high-speed corners demanding the utmost of the skill and courage of the rider.
But precisely because it flows, it levels the playing field a little. Bikes with less outright top speed, or which are down on horsepower and acceleration, can go just as fast as a bike which is a rocket ship out of corners. A brave rider can carry more corner speed through the turn and drive smoothly out, ending up just as fast as the rider on the quicker bike.
Though the riders competing in the 2015 MotoGP championship have all departed, the factories stayed on at Sepang for another day of testing. For the fourth day of the first Sepang MotoGP test was designated as a test day for Michelin, who are due to take over as official tire supplier from 2016.
The legal complications of the change from Bridgestone to Michelin mean that the tire test is shrouded in confidentiality, rather than secrecy. This test features only the test riders, all of whom have been barred from talking to the press about the tires. Times were not recorded, and definitely not released, though a handful of hardy journalists stood at trackside with handheld stopwatches (or smartphones) and tried to time riders that way. The secrecy is understandable: Michelin are at a very early stage of their development, and Bridgestone are paying Dorna a hefty sum to be official tire supplier, and want to reap the marketing benefits that should bring.
The weather continues its stubborn refusal to cooperate with preparation for the 2015 World Superbike season. After rain and cold conditions plagued the earlier test at the Motorland Aragon circuit, the rain halted testing for the best part of two days at Portimao. Wednesday was a complete washout, while a wet track hampered progress on Thursday morning.
Despite the cold, the assembled teams were able to ride almost continuously after lunchtime, until the track closed at 6pm. Cramming two days of testing into an afternoon was difficult, the teams concentrating on working with the 2015 version of their machines, incorporating the major rule changes new for this year. The conditions were not conducive to fast lap times: the quickest time reported was set by Leon Haslam on the Red Devils Roma Aprilia, but that was still over a second slower than the race lap record set by Tom Sykes back in 2013. Suzuki's Alex Lowes was half a second behind Haslam, matched by Ducati's Chaz Davies. Davide Giuliano and Sylvain Barrier were a couple of tenths behind Lowes and Davies, while Randy De Puniet was nearly a second slower than Barrier, and only a fraction quicker than World Superbike newcomer Jordi Torres.
With preseason testing for the World Superbike teams kicking off in Spain and Portugual, the Crescent Suzuki team issued the following press release:
Crescent Suzuki heads to Southern Europe for pre-season tests
Crescent Suzuki World Superbike team begins its Championship preparations in earnest this week with two back-to-back tests scheduled in the Iberian Peninsula before the opening round of the 2015 eni FIM Superbike World Championship in little over a month’s time.
Randy de Puniet and Alex Lowes’ first port-of-call for the two-day tests aboard their Yoshimura-powered GSX-Rs is Portugal’s 4,592m Autódromo Internacional do Algarve. Located 20km to the north-west of Portimao, the circuit is a favourite of Lowes - after his impressive rookie performances in last season’s January tests and July races. De Puniet, having yet to experience ‘the rollercoaster’ layout despite his 15-year top-flight career, is eager to acquaint himself with the Portuguese track while gaining more all-important time on his new Suzuki Superbike.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone after the first day of practice at Valencia:
Suzuki issued the following press release, in which they preview their wildcard appearance at the final round of MotoGP at Valencia, and look ahead to their full-time return from Valencia onwards:
SUZUKI RE-LAUNCH INTO MOTOGP THIS WEEKEND!
Team Suzuki Press Office – November 5.
The prologue to Suzuki’s latest chapter of Grand Prix racing will open this weekend when the revitalised works team roll into action with the refined version of the GSX-RR at the Ricardo Tormo circuit for the Gran Premio Generali de la Comunitat Valenciana.
Randy De Puniet’s presence as a ‘wild-card’, overseen by the experience and expertise of Davide Brivio, and with the honed GSX-RR, will mark the first time the factory is back on the grid of the premier class since the same Grand Prix in 2011. The outing represents a competitive statement-of-intent ahead of the first testing run for the 2015 season that will take place on Monday and a matter of hours after the last chequered flag of the 2014 championship.
Suzuki has been riding, analysing and testing comprehensively in 2014 with sessions at Grand Prix venues of Sepang, Termas de Rio Hondo, Circuit of the Americas, Phillip Island and Catalunya and have now chosen to re-join the fray and bring a manufacturer with 40 years of Grand Prix history and six (Rider) titles in the premier class back to the sharp-edge of the sport.
Randy De Puniet is to make a return to racing full time. As had been rumored for some weeks now, the Frenchman is to make the switch to the World Superbike series, where he will join the Crescent Suzuki team for 2015. De Puniet will race alongside Alex Lowes next year, aboard the Suzuki GSX-R1000.
After losing his ride with the Aspar team at the end of 2013, De Puniet has spent 2014 as Suzuki's official test rider, helping to develop the bike now dubbed the GSX-RR. The only racing action he had seen was with the Yoshimura team during the Suzuka 8 Hour race, where he finished in second place with teammates Josh Waters and Takuya Tsuda. But De Puniet was keen to return to racing full time, and with no vacancies in MotoGP, the World Superbike series was the obvious choice. Racing with the Crescent team allows him to stay with Suzuki as a test rider, and retain his strong ties with the Japanese factories.
Alongside his duties in WSBK, De Puniet will continue development work on the Suzuki GSX-RR MotoGP machine, with a particular focus on 2016. De Puniet will mainly be working on getting the GSX-RR to work with the Michelin tires, due to replace Bridgestone at the start of the 2016 season. He will also be helping to make the bike work with the so-called unified software which is to be introduced at the same time.
The Suzuki MotoGP team issued the following press release after completing their three day test at Barcelona:
SUZUKI MOTOGP UPBEAT AFTER BARCELONA TEST
Team Suzuki Press Office – June 18.
The Suzuki MotoGP Test Team has completed a busy and positive three-days of testing at the Barcelona-Catalunya Circuit in Spain today.
Test rider Randy De Puniet was joined by Takuya Tsuda for the official MotoGP test with the current series riders and teams; and then a private test today to evaluate several new revisions to the development 2015 Suzuki machine that included a new-specification engine, plus electronic ignition and chassis revisions.
With weather conditions fluctuating over the three-days, but averaging 25° Air/ 35° Track temperatures, De Puniet put-in his fastest lap on the opening day with a time of 1’43”683. Over the three days, he completed 200 laps of the 4.655 km, 16-corner circuit. Tsuda, who was supporting De Puniet and adding to the Suzuki MotoGP data-logging and evaluation of the new parts and settings at the event, completed a total of 103 laps.
After the MotoGP teams packed up and left Argentina to head to Jerez, Suzuki stayed on for three days of testing at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit. Unfortunately for Suzuki, it rained on all three days of the test, meaning the test was a washout. Randy De Puniet did not manage a single lap, while Nobu Aoki put in just 50 laps on a damp track.
Suzuki issued the following press release after the test:
Suzuki wrapped up their test at Austin on Wednesday, with Randy De Puniet concluding with a best lap of 2'05.85. Below is the press release they issued after the test:
SUZUKI MOTOGP CONCLUDES AUSTIN TEST
Team Suzuki Press Office – April 17.
The Suzuki MotoGP Test Team has concluded its Circuit of the Americas test at Austin in Texas after finding new direction and improvements to take to its next test in Argentina at the end of the month.
Test riders Randy De Puniet and Nobuatsu Aoki were again joined on-track by former World Champion Kevin Schwantz and shared the test with the Yoshimura Suzuki AMA Superbike team as track temperatures climbed to 39 degrees; slightly higher than the previous day, but not as high as the previous weekend’s MotoGP second round.
De Puniet completed a total of 62 laps of the 5,315m circuit with a best lap-time of 2’05.85; just-over half-a-second quicker than his previous day’s best time.
Suzuki's MotoGP test team took advantage of the presence of the MotoGP paddock at Austin to plan a test directly after the Grand Prix of the Americas. Under the watchful eye of team manager Davide Brivio, the team planned to have test rider Randy De Puniet put in three days of testing at a circuit the team had not yet tested the bike at, in a bid to gather more data ahead of their return to the series in 2015.
Unfortunately for Suzuki, very heavy hail and thunderstorms made testing extremely difficult on Monday, leaving the track very dirty and much slower than it had been for Sunday's race. But testing resumed in earnest on Tuesday, with Randy De Puniet running through testing electronics and another back-to-back test of the two chassis options Suzuki has been working on. De Puniet racked up a total of 56 laps on Tuesday, eventually putting in a lap of 2'06.41. That is roughly on pace with the Open class Honda RCV1000R machines, though De Puniet faced much worse track conditions than the Open class machines due to the aftermath of the weather.
In the final episode of Suzuki's four-part video series chronicling the Japanese factory's progress towards their MotoGP return in 2015, attention turns to the final test at Misano, and progress with the spec Magneti Marelli ECU. While the test team continue to use the Mitsubishi system at the race track, back in Japan, work is going on to reproduce the functionality in the Marelli ECU. The video addressess some of the challenges they face along the way.
Below is the final video in Suzuki's series:
Suzuki have released the third video in their four-part series, documenting the development of the new machine they are preparing for their reentry into the MotoGP class in 2015. This episode covers the tests at Barcelona and Aragon in June last year, including the public unveiling of the bike, and the impressive lap times set at Barcelona.