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This weekend at the Gran Premio Generali de la Comunitat Valenciana Frenchman Randy de Puniet will briefly return to MotoGP™ as he gets a wild card ride on the new Suzuki, before heading for WSBK in 2015.
Having worked with Suzuki over the last two years on the development of the prototype GSX-RR with which the Japanese manufacturer will return to Grand Prix racing next season, De Puniet is excited about getting a chance to race with the machine.
Last year he combined the Suzuki testing role with his MotoGP ride for the Power Electronics Aspar team, but this year he has focused solely on a development role and is therefore keen to return to competition.
In 2015 he will continue to test the Suzuki MotoGP prototype and will also ride with the Crescent Suzuki team in the eni FIM Superbike World Championship.
But first he has the Valencia wild card race to enjoy. “I’m ready for it, because I miss racing,” De Puniet states. “I am excited about the idea, keen to get going, but we are not setting any targets in terms of results. I know it’s hard to pick up the pace at the end of a season. I’m not under pressure. Whatever happens, it won’t change my future. For me this race is a reward.”
Having ridden at Valencia regularly down the years in Grand Prix, De Puniet knows the Spanish track well and was even a race winner from pole position there in the 250cc race in 2003.
Will it be a good track for him and for the GSX-RR? He replies, “I like the circuit, it’s a very technical track, not very big. I usually like faster circuits, but I feel pretty comfortable there. It has also been resurfaced, so it is in better condition than before. We don’t know if it will be a good track for Suzuki, but in any case it’s a circuit that I like and that’s a positive.”
On combining his Superbike ride with ongoing MotoGP testing duties for Suzuki in 2015, which will focus on preparing the bike for the use of Michelin tyres for racing in 2016, De Puniet explains, “My role this year was important because I developed a bike starting from zero. Next year will be different, because the bike will be developed by the riders in Grand Prix. I’ll be giving my feedback on the tyres. It will be a different role but will be interesting work and the more time I spend on a bike, the better.”
“Of course, everyone dreams of riding a MotoGP bike. For me it’s perfect because I will keep the link with MotoGP and you never know what the future will bring. I will turn 34, I’m not old and if one day there is an opportunity to come back, then why not? If I win or I’m ahead in Superbikes I’ll stay there, but for now I'm taking one thing at a time.”
In conclusion De Puniet also gave his opinion on the choice of his former teammate Aleix Espargaro and incoming rookie Maverick Viñales to spearhead the new Suzuki project in MotoGP.
“The feeling I have is that I wanted to be part of the team,” he admits. “They wanted to focus on a young rider from Moto2 and, given the season he’s had, I think it’s the right choice with Viñales. That speaks for itself. Also Aleix has exploded this year. Last year he had a great season in CRT. He’s a rider on the way up. If they had hired someone else, or someone not as good as me or if it was not a logical choice, I would have been disappointed. But I was never promised anything. They think that this team will be the best for 2015-2016 and I respect their choice.”
“What I want is to make clear that between us, things have always been straight forward. I’m still part of the Suzuki family and we don’t know what will happen in the future. I hope that all the work I have done for two years will serve them well for the next year and the years to come.”
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