Randy de Puniet has completed his first two-day test on Suzuki's MotoGP machine. The Frenchman flew to Japan directly after the French round of MotoGP at Le Mans, to take part in the test organized at Motegi's Twin Ring circuit, home of the Japanese round of MotoGP, and a circuit owned by Honda.
Under the terms of his testing contract, De Puniet is unable to say anything official, his manager Eric Mahé telling the French magazine Moto Journal only that the test "went well". Suzuki did not publish any times from the test or provide any other information, but as the MotoGP test teams from both Yamaha and Honda were present, it was inevitable that times would leak out. German-language website Speedweek claims the scoop, with times also to be published in the Spanish magazine Motociclismo, which is out on Tuesday.
According to Speedweek, the test took place in excellent conditions, with temperatures of 28°C and a dry track. The German website reports De Puniet as having posted a time of 1'47.0 on Suzuki's new inline four MotoGP machine, though no other confirmation of that time has been forthcoming. In comparison, that is as fast as Honda test rider Takumi Takahashi on the day, and half a second quicker than Yamaha test rider Katsuaki Nakasuga.
So how competitive does that make Suzuki's new MotoGP machine? When we compare it to the times set by MotoGP riders during the race last year, it seems like a solid start. De Puniet is just over 2 seconds off Jorge Lorenzo's pole time, and 1.4 seconds slower than Dani Pedrosa's best race lap at the event. De Puniet's time puts him a little slower than the race pace of the Ducati, Valentino Rossi having posted a lap of 1'46.739 during the race, though he qualified 0.8 seconds faster than that. Comparing De Puniet's test time to his own performance at the race on the Aprilia ART machine, he is just under six tenths quicker than his qualifying time, but over two and a half seconds faster than the time he set during the race. De Puniet's race time is hard to compare: he crashed on the first lap on the Aprilia ART machine, and never fully recovered his pace, retiring after the halfway point. It was much cooler during the race weekend in 2012, of course (air temperature 20°C), meaning that this week's test took place under much more favorable conditions.
Just how accurate these times are, and how competitive Suzuki's MotoGP machine will actually be, will become more apparent when the Suzuki receives its first public outing in three week's time, at the Monday test after the Barcelona round of MotoGP. That test takes place with official timing, and De Puniet will once again be riding the bike there.
Despite the test, Suzuki's official entry is yet to be confirmed. The Japanese factory had initially asked Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta for entry slots for just a single year. Given Suzuki's checkered history in recent years - asking for extra engines in the allocation, asking for an exception for the now-defunct rookie rule, cutting back to just a single rider in 2011, despite assurances to the contrary, and then pulling out altogether at the end of 2011 - Ezpeleta is keen to have them sign a three-year contract, to prevent the Japanese factory from withdrawing after just a single year.
Former Valentino Rossi manager Davide Brivio has been contracted to run the team, and is currently putting together a workshop in Italy. As for the riders, Cal Crutchlow remains the hot favorite for one seat, the other looking like going to a young Italian rider. Former Suzuki MotoGP crew chief Tom O'Kane was present at the Motegi tests to function as crew chief, and is widely believed to have been contracted for the role.
The website of the British motorcycling weekly Motorcycle News has a selection of photos of the bike.
|Jorge Lorenzo||Yamaha||2012 QP||1:44.969|
|Dani Pedrosa||Honda||2012 QP||1:45.212||0.243|
|Dani Pedrosa||Honda||2012 Race||1:45.589||0.620|
|Jorge Lorenzo||Yamaha||2012 Race||1:45.727||0.758|
|Valentino Rossi||Ducati||2012 QP||1:45.976||1.007|
|Valentino Rossi||Ducati||2012 Race||1:46.739||1.770|
|Katsuaki Nakasuga||Yamaha||2012 QP||1:46.780||1.811|
|Randy de Puniet||Suzuki||2013 Test||1:47.000||2.031|
|Takumi Takahashi||Honda||2013 Test||1:47.000||2.031|
|Katsuaki Nakasuga||Yamaha||2012 Race||1:47.220||2.251|
|Randy de Puniet||Aprilia ART||2012 QP||1:47.581||2.612|
|Katsuaki Nakasuga||Yamaha||2013 Test||1:47.590||2.621|
|Wataru Yoshikawa||Yamaha||2013 Test||1:47.900||2.931|
|Kousuke Akiyoshi||Honda||2013 Test||1:47.930||2.961|
|Randy de Puniet||Aprilia ART||2012 Race||1:49.642||4.673|