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Suzuki seeking the right power/reliability balance

Suzuki seeking the right power/reliability balance

What we've learned in the first two races is that the task for Suzuki & Aprilia to bridge the gap to Honda, Yamaha & Ducati is a huge one...

With nineteen years of experience reporting on MotoGP™ for Motorcycle News, Matthew Birt knows the championship inside-out. For the 2015 season he joins the team to bring you exclusive news and opinion from inside the paddock.

What we've also learned is that the older Valentino Rossi gets the faster he gets, Marc Marquez’s fifth place in Qatar was a mere blip and Ducati appear serious title contenders for the first time in seven years.

Plus we've seen how high Honda, Yamaha and Ducati have set the bar in terms of designing machinery capable of winning the MotoGP World Championship.

As well as an intense rider fight for title glory in 2015, the battle for technical supremacy is at its strongest in years, with Ducati finally threatening the recent Japanese domination of MotoGP.

It was great to see in Austin last weekend three different brands on the front row of the grid and three brands on the podium.

However the size of the task for Suzuki and Aprilia to bridge the gap to Honda, Yamaha and Ducati is huge.

Ducati’s revival will certainly give huge encouragement to the likes of Suzuki and Aprilia, who are facing the tough challenge of trying to build competitive 1000cc prototypes from scratch.

Suzuki’s GSX-RR claimed a double top 10 finish in Austin last weekend. That was more than respectable in only its second race but another stark reminder of the work that lies ahead.

Suzuki’s issue is staring everybody in the face. It is simply too slow. On the 1.2 kilometres straight in Austin last weekend, it’s estimated that Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Vinales were losing 0.4s in that section alone.

In Argentina this weekend, there’s another long sixth gear straight where the bikes will reach close to 210mph, exposing Suzuki’s weakness again.

Suzuki hopes a new and more powerful motor will be ready to test in June at the post race test in Catalunya.

But it isn’t a case of fine-tuning the motor. They need a big step in horsepower, and extracting more won’t be easy. Suzuki doesn’t want to lose its smooth bottom end power delivery to gain more top end performance. And it certainly doesn’t want to lose reliability while chasing power.

The reason Suzuki had to sacrifice power was because it ran into reliability issues at the end of last season. And while getting to the bottom of the reliability issues that hit test rider Randy de Puniet in Valencia, Suzuki lost at least 12 weeks looking for reliability when they needed to be searching for performance.

A seamless shift gearbox is currently being tested in Japan and should be ready later in the season. But the number one priority, according to Suzuki boss Davide Brivio is to get some more engine speed.

Aprilia rider Alvaro Bautista’s 15th in Austin would have felt like a podium for the Noale factory after a difficult start to its first official premier class effort since 2004.

The RS-GP machine is still very much in its infancy. It lacks in most areas, according to Bautista, but particularly mid-corner.

And the current chassis is not without balance issues.

Too much weight is thrown to the front-end under braking and then there’s not enough weight on the front tyre when Bautista and Marco Melandri are trying to accelerate.

Suzuki and Aprilia know the road to the front is a long one and laden with pitfalls. But Ducati has already shown it can be safely negotiated.


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