Suzuki’s last MotoGP podium was at the 2008 U.S. Grand Prix with Chris Vermeulen at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. At Valencia, a tough wild-card race weekend with test rider Randy De Puniet exposed engine-reliability and top-speed problems for the new GSX-RR.
“It was important to understand the level of our bike in race conditions,” Team Manager Davide Brivio said. “We have problems on track different from the dyno. Because of durability issues, we are using the engine ‘underpowered.’”
After the first day of post-season testing, new factory riders Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Viñales approved the GSX-RR chassis. Both Spaniards complimented front-end feel, which Project Leader Satoru Terada said was a priority when the bike’s design was considered. With a 12-mph gap in top speed at Valencia, the focus is now power and durability.
Suzuki is also working on a seamless gearbox. “We are developing and testing it on the dyno,” Terada said. “Although it takes time to be approved for the track,” Brivio added, “the target is to be ready for the start of the season.” Neither Terada nor Brivio were willing to confirm whether the factory is developing its own gearbox or has asked another company to do so.
Regarding electronics, Suzuki is switching from Mitsubishi to Magneti Marelli. Terada confirmed that he is impressed with the potential of the new system.
The decision to power the GSX-RR with an inline-four was made to bring racing in line with production. “Suzuki has a long history in racing,” Brivio said. “The decision to come back in a difficult moment is not only about sales. It’s about the excitement of dealers, customers, and employees, and developing technology to use in production.”
Suzuki has earned six rider and seven constructor Grand Prix titles, celebrated over a 24-year period from 1976 to 2000 with Barry Sheene (1976-77), Marco Lucchinelli (1981), Franco Uncini (1982), and Americans Kevin Schwantz (1993) and Kenny Roberts Jr. (2000).