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Team Suzuki Ecstar had a lot of new parts to test in Qatar, although many of them weren't easily visible. They confirmed that they were testing engines for 2022, chassis and chassis parts, aero wings and electronics.
My gut feeling is that not a lot has changed in the DNA of last year's Championship-winning Suzuki GSX-RR. And that's understandable too. For example, just like in 2020, the glitz and glamour of fastest laps were never quite there for the boys in blue on a Saturday, although having said that Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) looked to have made a small step forward in that area at the Official Test, you just knew come race day that they would be there. Overall, I feel that Suzuki are doing their groundwork for what really counts. The race and another World Championship challenge.
Champions Suzuki remain unconcerned by one lap pace
But that doesn't mean I don't think they'll do well at the opening race of the year. In fact, if the race was the day after the final day of testing in Qatar, I would have put my money on a Suzuki being on the podium. But the race wasn't then and there is more time for everyone to have improved heading into this weekend.
So far, Suzuki may not have shown the best speed in the early laps on new tyres but, as soon as they are half a dozen laps in, they look very competitive. Then, just like last year, when both Mir and Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) have done a high number of laps on a rear tyre, they return to the pitlane looking in better condition than any of the tyres I've seen on the rear of any of their opponents' machines.
Mir: Race pace the key, not one lap
What about the start, though? Suzuki are the only manufacturer to not have a rear start device, running a front start device only. However, despite that, all the practice starts I watched from Mir, Rins and test rider Sylvain Guintoli were very good and very consistent, with the Frenchman even boasting a new start PB.
Add all this together and it's why I believe that if the Suzuki riders manage to keep their bikes within touching distance of the front group by mid-race in Qatar, by the end they'll be a threat for the podium or possibly even the win. Suzuki and their riders are capable of incredible consistency from lap one to the chequered flag. That fact alone is enough to strike fear into any opponent.