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Suzuki’s return to Grand Prix racing becomes a reality this weekend as the Japanese manufacturer field their evolving GSX-RR at the Gran Premio Generali de la Comunitat Valenciana.
Randy de Puniet’s presence as a wild card, overseen by the experience and expertise of Davide Brivio, will mark the first time the factory is back on the grid since the 2011 Valencia Grand Prix.
Suzuki have been testing comprehensively in 2014 with sessions at Grand Prix venues such as Sepang, Termas de Rio Hondo, Circuit of the Americas, Phillip Island and Catalunya and have now chosen to rejoin the competitive action.
“This is a big moment for us because we have been testing for so long,” commented Brivio. “We have been waiting for this. It is only a wild card appearance and it is the last race of the year but I’m happy to be going to Valencia and I think it is a reward for Randy for the big job he has done on this project.”
“It is the end of our preparation and I’m excited,” continued the Italian, who has directed Suzuki’s MotoGP™ regeneration for over a year. “This is where the new adventure really starts. I’m aware we have a big job to do, and during the weekend we will take a lot of notes for the work we need to do through the winter. This is our first comparison with our competitors and you can only ever really see where you are through a race situation so it’s an important meeting.”
Suzuki celebrated its six Rider World Championship titles - and seven Constructor’s titles - in a 24-year spell from 1976 to 2000, with winners such as Barry Sheene, Marco Lucchinelli, Franco Uncini, Kevin Schwantz and Kenny Roberts Jnr in the saddle.
As they return to racing Suzuki will ultimately target a second victory in the MotoGP (four-stroke) era after Chris Vermeulen gave the marque a win in the 2007 French Grand Prix at Le Mans under the 800cc engine regulation. Suzuki’s last MotoGP podium appearance was at the 2008 U.S. Grand Prix courtesy of Loris Capirossi.
“Suzuki has a long racing history and it is exciting to be part of the comeback,” enthused Brivio. “I am aware that the competition are very strong and they have kept racing while Suzuki stepped away for almost three seasons, so we need to catch up and recover the gap and also learn as much as possible to get to their level. The target is to be in a position to challenge our competitors as soon as we can.”
Valencia is the last stop of 18 on the 2014 MotoGP trail but it is one in which Suzuki has enjoyed reasonably decent showings in previous visits. John Hopkins captured a podium finish with third place in 2007, Capirossi was ninth in 2008 and Alvaro Bautista also broke into the top 10 back in 2010.
Suzuki’s work will extend beyond practice, qualification and the race across Friday, Saturday and Sunday respectively as the primary 2015 test will take place on Monday where tyre warmers will come off for new recruits Maverick Viñales and Aleix Espargaro.
“The GSX-RR will be the same for the test as used in the race,” says Brivio. “Randy will hand over the bike and it will be the same spec for Maverick and Aleix. We will then start our winter work and our job for 2015 based on the comments and the feedback from those first laps with those riders.”
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