As the MotoGP field gets closer, the value of a good test rider goes up. The closer a rider can get to the limits of the bike, the more data they generate, and the more the factories learn. That means there is a premium now on genuinely fast riders, as the data gathered when a rider is within a few tenths of the MotoGP elite is exponentially more valuable than the data obtained by riders who are a second off the pace.
As a result, top racers who have missed the boat for one reason or another are in high demand among MotoGP's factories. In the second part of our series on the importance of test riders, we take a look at Suzuki. (You can read the first part, with KTM's Mike Leitner, here). I spoke to Suzuki Ecstar team boss Davide Brivio at the Jerez test last November, to ask about the importance of Sylvain Guintoli, the former MotoGP, WorldSBK, and BSB racer who Suzuki have been using to help push forward the development of the GSX-RR over the past year or so. With some success: so far, Suzuki have three podiums from four races, and are clearly competitive with Yamaha, Honda, and Ducati.
Given that a test rider needs to be able to clearly describe what they are feeling on the bike, as well as be fast enough to feel something useful, I started off asking Brivio what he more, a fast rider or an intelligent rider. "I would say it should be a good compromise, but probably an intelligent test rider is important as well. Let's say fast enough!" Brivio laughed. "It's always difficult to say whether a test rider can be 1 second slower or three seconds slower. But for me, we think it's very important that he understands whether something is better or not and he can describe properly why it's better or why it's worse. Then of course everything has to be confirmed by the factory riders. But it's very important that he's intelligent and also expert enough about what he is testing, he has enough experience with the electronics, with the tires, with the chassis."