Suzuki's MotoGP activities finally came to an end with the Valencia GP, the final round of the 2022 season. Since the bombshell news of Suzuki Motor Corporation's decision to withdraw at the end of the season hit the world this May, every venue and every racetrack has become a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for all the team members of Team SUZUKI ECSTAR. On Thursday afternoon, before Team SUZUKI ECSTAR's final race at the Circuit de Valencia Ricardo Tormo, we spoke with Shinichi Sahara, the project leader who has been leading the team for twenty years.
In the first part of this two-part interview, Sahara-san discusses in depth how Suzuki's decision to withdraw at the end of 2022 affected the team's season, and how the team handled it.
Q: This weekend must be very emotional for you. First of all, I would like to know what you are feeling now.
Shinichi Sahara: It is true that this is our last race, but to be honest, I try as much as possible not to think about it. I told my team members ‘let's do things as we always do to make a solid weekend’ because it is the best way to win the race, and this is what we always do in every race weekend. In the final part of the season, not only the engines but also a lot of chassis parts already have a lot of mileage on them, so we have to avoid any possibility of small troubles in order to have our riders give their 100% to demonstrate their potential and our bikes'.
Q: Do you feel that your last race has finally come?
Sahara: Maybe it is deposited somewhere deep down in me, but I try not to look at such a state of mind. When I imagine what kind of feeling I will have at the moment we cross the goal line, there is something that surges in my mind. But that feeling will distract concentration and doesn't lead to good results. So, we will do what we do on a regular basis; it is the way we do this weekend, as we have been doing in all the races.
Q: How did you feel this season? Did you feel it was very long, or short?
Sahara: It makes me feel as if it started just yesterday, but at the same time, the opening round in Qatar feels like it was a long time ago. After the season opener, many things have happened, and time passed very quickly and there was no time to reflect, so I have mixed feelings about this, as if it were both a long time ago and very recently.
Q: Looking back on the first race of this season, your bike showed very good potential to fight against your competitors thanks to the good improvement of the rear devices.
Sahara: We had started using it from Austria last year. Since we were the latecomer, we continued to improve it from there until now. If fact, we did testing at Motegi last month and brought here the latest and final version that we had a good feeling in that testing. We stick with good results and good performance to conclude this season in the best way possible. Regarding this year’s bike, although we didn’t concentrate on any specific area, we were able to increase the horsepower while maintaining a good total balance. That is why we were able to do a good race from the first round in Qatar.
Q: In Qatar, you had very good top speed, which surprised everyone.
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