4 months ago
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Suzuki Ecstar Team Manager Davide Brivio says plans for the Hamamatsu factory to introduce a satellite team into MotoGP™ for 2022 are "still on the table" despite the current COVID-19 crisis. During an online debrief on Monday, the experienced team boss touched on a whole host of subjects including the recent renewals of both Alex Rins and Joan Mir for 2021 and 2022.
Interestingly, though, Brivio admitted that Suzuki's racing department is continuing to focus on their expansion to having four GSX-RRs on the MotoGP™ grid from 2022 onwards now that both of their talented Spaniards have been tied down for the foreseeable future. It's a subject that has been the topic of much debate over the years as Suzuki's competitiveness continues to grow.
"We had an idea to do this for 2022 and this is still on the table," said Brivio. "For the moment, we’ve been concentrating on discussing the riders agreements but now I think we’ll let the top management focus on more important company issues and then in a few weeks or a few months maybe we’ll try to have this discussion again and see what the situation is and what their intentions are. For us, it’s still open and a project we’re still working on. It’s something our racing department still wants to do but, of course, we have to go through the approval of top management. It’s difficult to say now, we have to wait and see. We’ll continue working on it though."
Mir: "Suzuki and I are improving and growing up together"
Meanwhile, the Japanese factory's "target" since the middle of 2019 has been to extend the contracts of both Alex Rins and Joan Mir for a further two years. Now a two-time premier class race winner, Rins' deal was officially announced just over a month ago. Plus, after impressing during his rookie year and amid rumoured interest from Ducati, Mir officially announced he would remain with Suzuki a fortnight ago.
"The negotiations were quite easy," said Brivio, when explaining how both deals came about. "Because Alex, to be very honest, showed interest to remain with us about twelve months ago. First of all, I have to say that last year around this time I went to Japan to have a meeting and already by then with our management we discussed what the plan was with regard to the renewals. Of course, we had a year ahead, but I wanted to try understand if we had an opinion. At the end of that discussion, we were all happy to continue with Rins and Mir for 2021 and 2022, this was one year ago so it was our target, our idea.
"In the same time, Alex came to us and said ‘I would like to stay, I would like to continue with Suzuki. If you’re happy, we can sign the agreement now’. We were happy to do that, but it was a little bit more complicated because how our company works is that we needed to go to our President in May, June, July 2019 and say we have to sign an agreement for 2021. He was probably right, given by what can happen, but he wanted to go step-by-step. So, we had to wait for the right time according to our company procedure. During 2019, you think about the 2020 season and then when 2020 is about to start you can state talking about 2021, things like that. But in our mind with Alex, we were already agreed. We were all happy to keep Alex.
"I'm so happy to stay with Suzuki for two more years"
"Then on Joan, we also spoke with him in the middle of last year and we said ‘look, we’re happy, we would like to continue and we want to make together a long-term project’. So, we were happy with both of them and we didn’t see any reason to change and we also thought that stability would pay off in the future. Joan always showed his interest to stay and to be honest, he was a little bit easier because we had an option. So, we could exercise an option with Joan, so we were a little bit more relaxed with him to be honest because we had an option we could exercise.
"With Alex, we got his verbal commitment then it took a long-time to get the official signature off top management on the contract, but it was just bureaucratic but I’m the first person where until I see that signature on the paper, I’m not sure. That’s why I always said to you for many months: 'we want to keep them, I think they want to stay and I hope it will happen’. I want to see the signature first! We’re very happy because we achieved our target. Alex has already shown he can win races, he’s within the top riders in MotoGP. Joan has the potential to reach that level. Our target now is to have two riders inside the top five, top six of the Championship whether that’s first, second, third, etc. Our target is to have two of our riders in that top group."
With the negotiations are straight forward as they were then, was a 'Marc Marquez style' four-year deal ever spoken about or considered? Brivio explained that, although he's extremely keen on continuing the "long-term project" he's building with both Mir and Rins, the idea was never considered.
"Signing a four-year agreement surprised everyone. We’re used to signing two-year deals. Of course, our intentions are to keep Joan and Alex for as long as we possibly can. Alex has said to us many times that he wants a long career with Suzuki. Of course, we must continue to provide a competitive bike otherwise he’ll look elsewhere. There were no problems that stopped us signing a long-term contract, I’m afraid for our company to sign a four-year contract is something a little special. So maybe that would’ve been more difficult to discuss and try to explain. I hope to sign another two-year agreement for 2023 and 2024 with Joan and Alex, I’d be happy to do that."
"We have a great base for the championship"
Finally, at any stage did Suzuki have to consider a Plan B? Mir was strongly linked with a possible switch to Ducati after the Italian brand was unable to tempt Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) away from the Iwata factory. However, with the previously explained Mir contract clause at his disposal, Brivio explained he never had to look towards any back-up options.
"We never really had a Plan B or any thoughts of replacing our riders. Over the last few months, I had chats with other riders’ managers but that’s quite normal, our paddock is a small community. Maybe they’ll ask, ‘what’s the situation with your riders’, I actually got that question many times, I said, ‘our target is Joan and Alex’ and they’ll say ‘OK, keep me informed’.
"We never had to talk with anyone else. I was more or less aware of what was happening, however, with Marquez staying, Quartararo renewing with Yamaha, Viñales wanting to stay but also having Ducati. But because our target was Alex and Joan, we didn’t need to start negotiations with anyone else. I think I was well informed and was ready to react in case of any problems."
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