Shinichi Sahara Interview: Part 1 - On Suzuki's Withdrawal, Managing The Team, And The Value Of Racing

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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Comments

I'm about to start on a Tamiya 1/12 scale model of the 2020 bike. It'll be front and centre of my kits when it's done.

Japanese can be excessively formal in their communication sometimes, but what a warm and informative discussion of the last year of a great racing program. Thank you Mr. Sahara, for some great races, and a revealing and sincere interview.

best go out on a high. They certainly did that. I loved the look of that bike when it first rolled out. I hope Yamaha bought the engine rights (well, I can dream….).

Suzuki has always struck me as an odd company. They just don't do things like the others. They have made some odd cars. (I currently drive the SX4 awd hatchback collaboration w Fiat and love it). They ditched WSBK and leaned away from electronics on their GSXR1000. So forth.

Their MotoGP project was GORGEOUS in nearly every way. Sadness now, it is gone. Are they DECIDEDLY underdog? No major sponsor, no Jr Team. Mr consistency Mir wins them a Championship! Monster sugar-meth sponsors! Aaaand, quit.

Looking fwd? The most interesting large change is in Supersport. The GSXR750 was homologated but too late for 2022. It doesn’t sound like Suzuki gives a shite. It could be the overdog right out of the box, and cheaply. Is there a Yoshimura - like team poised to enter? Privateer squad? Anyone?!

(Crickets)

Loving Suzuki = Ever Confused Still Take A Risk

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Wintertainment: get to know Augusto Fernandez, 9 mins "Top 5 Moments of 2022" (some good views of his skill and style) -

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=4vH5o5uHBOA

Winter chit chat...having a look at the Readers' 2023 guesses below, what do you see? 

2023 Top 5 & Independent contest OPEN NOW thru Thurs PM at Round 1. 

Rules: no exact repeats, please check previous entries. Ok to have your Top Independent rider also be in your Top 5. Please use the format below.

Congratulations Mutterrers, you now get a Finish Bonus! Correct 1st place rider gets an extra 10% of total points. 2nd 7%, 3rd 5%, 4th 3.25%, 5th 2%. Win the Contest? Last year's winner sends you a racing related shirt! Wear it with pride, it goes well with your smartypants. David Emmett is also sending you a little something.

(Big thanks to Ivanhoe and his new intern SpongeJr. Bigger thanks of course to Krop and Co).

S U G G E S T E D one time donation to David Emmett. Most contestants are putting in $20, if you saw him at a race wouldn't you buy our friend lunch? At bottom of the site page is a  D O N A T E  button, or click here. Thanks!

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Motoshrink: 1. Bagnaia 2. M.Marquez 3. Quartararo 4. Bastiannini 5. Martin I. Martin

SP_won. 1. Bagnaia 2. Marquez 3. Quartararo 4. Binder 5. Bastianini I. Martin

Faitbien: 1.Bagnaia. 2. Rins. 3. Quatararo. 4. Bastianini. 5. Mir. I. Bezzechi

oldholla: M.Marquez 2: Quatararo 3: Bagnaia 4: Binder 5: Vinales Ind: Martin

GSP: 1. M.Marquez 2. Bastianini 3. Bagnaia 4. Quatararo 5. Binder Ind: Rins

Krusty: 1. M.Marquez 2. Bagnaia 3. Quartararo 4. Bastianini 5. Miller I. Martin

Fineon - 1. M.Marquez 2. Quartararo 3. Bagnaia 4. Bastianini 5. Rins I. Martin

guy smiley 1. Bagnaia 2. M.Marquez 3. Quartararo 4. Bastianini 5. A.Espargaro I. Marini

Riesjart #1 Plate: 1. M.Marquez 2. Quartararo 3. Bastianinni 4. Bagnaia 5. Mir Ind: Rins

Whooligan: 1. Bastianini 2. Bagnaia 3. M.Marquez 4. Quartararo 5. Martin I. Martin

D999: 1. M.Marquez 2. Pecco 3. Fabio 4. Enes 5. Miller I. A.Marquez

berndbuchwald: 1.M.Marquez 2. Bastianini 3. Quartararo 4. Rins 5. Binder I: Rins

Ibis117: 1. Bastiannini 2. Binder 3. Bagnaia 4. Quartararo 5. Morbidelli I. Oliveira

lotsofchops: 1. M.Marquez 2. Bagnaia 3. Quatararo 4. Bastianini 5. Binder I. Bezzecchi

Onsight512: 1.Bastianini 2. Quartararo 3. Bagnaia 4. Rins 5. M.Marquez I. Rins

Kailasnath: 1. Quartararo 2. M.Marquez. 3. Bagnaia. 4. Oliveira. 5. A. Espargaro; I. R.Fernandez

Poole Pirate: 1. M.Marquez 2. Quartararo 3. Bastianini 4. Bagnaia 5. Vinales IR. Martin

Lo: 1. M.Marquez 2. Quartararo 3. Bagnaia 4. A.Espagaro 5. Binder I. Rins

Brian: 1. M.Marquez 2. Bastiannini 3. Quartararo 4. Bagnaia 5. Binder I. Bezzechi

Ivanhoe:.1. Quartararo 2. Bastianini 3. Bagnaia 4. M.Marquez 5. Oliveira I. Oliveira

Cloverleaf: 1. Binder 2. Bagnaia 3. Martin 4. Quartararo 5. Vinales I. Oliveira

yud77: 1. Bagnaia  2. M. Marquez  3. Bezzecchi 4. Bastinini  5. Quartararo  I. A. Marquez

-- Add yours below -- and hey, doesn’t it feel good to toss Motomatters a Donation? C L I C K ...

The VR46 Academy isn't going to keep taking young Italian riders. They are going to focus on the older established riders they have.

They already quit their Moto3 team to focus on the new MotoGP project for 2021. Next season their Moto2 team will be taken over by Fantic. Manzi, Surra, and Antonelli won't be VR46 members anymore.

I assumed VR46 was going to continue the pipeline/training of young talent after Rossi retired. I looked forward to seeing how a new Alien-esque post riding role could be, and saw the place becoming a big part of Italy's future here. Perhaps becoming Yamaha, if not then Ducati. 

Nope! Valentino got married, races cars, and just showed up for Pecco's Championship victory. In a plain white T shirt, No Spettacalo.