Being a replacement rider is never easy. Being asked to replace a factory MotoGP rider is always an honor, and one which nobody wants to turn down, but it also means being thrown in at the deep end, with a new bike, new tires, and sometimes even new tracks to learn with little or no testing.
Bearing all that in mind, experience can make the world of difference. So when Suzuki were forced to replace Alex Rins, after he broke his left arm in Austin, they turned to one of the most experienced riders around. Sylvain Guintoli spent five seasons in 250s and two full seasons in MotoGP, before heading off to World Superbikes, where he won the title in 2014. He is currently racing the brand new Suzuki GSX-R1000 for Bennetts Suzuki in the BSB championship.
In Barcelona, I found myself alone at Guintoli's debrief, and had a chance to spend fifteen minutes talking to the Frenchman. We had a wide-ranging conversation, covering topics as diverse as the changes to the bikes and tires since 2008, the character of the Suzuki GSX-RR MotoGP bike, and how it compares to Suzuki's production GSX-R1000.
Q: What’s it been like having to come back into the paddock and obviously totally different tires from when you were racing?
Sylvain Guintoli: It’s been a blast so far, to be honest. It’s been honestly a great opportunity, a great experience to back riding the GP race. The Suzuki is a beautiful bike to ride. But it’s also been challenging. Like you said, the tires obviously, the last time I rode Michelins was 2002.