New to here

Tickets purchase
VideoPass purchase

Paul Denning looks forward to life in MotoGP

Paul Denning looks forward to life in MotoGP

Paul Denning looks forward to life in MotoGP

For millions of MotoGP fans around the world, the 2005 season can't come soon enough. But for Paul Denning the anticipation is even higher as his first year as Manager of Team Suzuki Grand Prix draws closer.

Denning linked up with the team for the first time in the final round of the 2004 season at Valencia and has spent the two months since then making furtive preparations for the year ahead. caught up with the former Rizla Suzuki British Superbike team chief to find out exactly what preparations he is making for the new challenge and to discover his hopes and ambitions for 2005.

Q: You got your first taste of MotoGP with Team Suzuki at Valencia in October. What conclusions were you able to make?

Paul Denning: Well it was very interesting. There was an awful lot to try and take in at once and, with it being the last race of the season, there were so many things already in place. But I got to spend five days with the team, which was very useful because I wouldn't like to be going into this job without any prior knowledge or experience of the team.

Q: Team tests have already taken place at Sepang in November but you decided not to go. Why was that?

PD: At the moment I am very busy organising things for the team at our base in the UK and I decided my time would be best spent here, so unfortunately I wasn't able to go out to the test. Aoki rode with Akioshi and they got through a mountain of work for 2005. Some of it worked well and some of it worked not so well but that's the nature of testing. We know that great improvements need to be made with the bike and that is not a short process, but everybody in the team is very positive.

Q: Tell us more about the decision to replace Gregorio Lavilla with Nobuatsu Aoki as the team's test rider…

PD: Basically Gregorio Lavilla was replaced by Nobuatsu Aoki at the request of Bridgestone. Nobu did an awful lot of testing work with Bridgestone when they first began developing MotoGP tyres and has a close relationship with them, as he does with Suzuki. His vast experience in MotoGP, with Suzuki and with Bridgestone means he is the perfect choice as a test rider for us and when we realised that the opportunity was there to sign him up we wasted no time in doing so.

Q: The team also parted company with Erv Kanemoto this winter…

PD: Yes, although I must make it clear that it was not a decision that came from Suzuki or the team. Erv has his reasons and we respect them. I don't know what his plans are but I speak on behalf of the team and, I'm sure, the whole of Suzuki when I wish him the best of luck. I only had the pleasure of meeting Erv in the final round of the season at Valencia and it is a shame we won't have the chance to work together in the future. He is a great technician and a true gentleman.

Q: John Hopkins signed a new deal with the team at Valencia. What are your hopes for him next season?

PD: Well, obviously John is the youngest rider in MotoGP and I think he is a very exciting prospect. Having watched him up close at Valencia he reminds me very much of Kevin Schwantz, the way he overrides the bike and pushes it to the limit. He's had a lot of bad luck this season but he hardly ever falls off and has shown the pace to run at the front. He knows the team, he knows the bike and it would be ridiculous to change him for another rider only to have to start from scratch again. I am very happy that John signed a new deal because he is a definite talent.

Q: What were your first impressions of his team-mate, Kenny Roberts Jr.?

PD: I think he is a very intelligent person, a very intelligent rider and he has proven that he is a clear challenger in MotoGP. Our job is to keep him motivated and give him the material he needs to be winning races again. He's had a difficult couple of years but we will work hard for him and we expect him to work just as hard for us and push that bike as far as his talent will allow him.

Q: What would you say the team's realistic targets are for 2005?

PD: I think it's fair to say that the Suzuki Grand Prix Team will be very disappointed not to be challenging for the podium when the opportunity arises, in terms of the tyres being right and other factors in place. That needs to be our target for 2005. The 2004 season was disastrous in terms of results but not in terms of development of the bike and the potential it began to show. As far as I am concerned, improvement on 2004 is an absolute given. What we need to focus on is achieving the consistency and reliability that will begin to turn the GSV-R into a race-winning machine.

Q: And finally, from a personal point of view, how are you looking forward to the challenge of moving up from BSB to MotoGP?

PD: To be honest I don't think MotoGP is going to be that much different to BSB. Obviously it's noisier, faster and there are more people, but the challenge of putting the right people together and getting them to pull towards the same goal is the same. The logistics will be a bit different, with having to move around the world instead of around Britain but that shouldn't be a problem. For me it's a privilege and an honour to be given the chance to run this team and I will give my best to make Grand Prix racing an enjoyable experience for Suzuki again. It won't be easy but I am definitely up for the challenge.

MotoGP, 2004

Other updates you may be interested in ›