Summer report: Alex Rins - a heavyweight contender

The first 9 races confirmed our suspicions: Alex Rins and Suzuki are now heavyweight contenders in the premier class.

Had it not been for two costly mistakes in as many weekends, we may have been talking about Alex Rins as Marc Marquez’s biggest threat in the second half of 2019. As it is, the Suzuki man finds himself 84 points back and out of the title race thanks to a crash from of the lead at Assen and a fall from second place at the Sachsenring.

But Rins and Suzuki’s season has still been impressive. The Spaniard broke his winning duck in the premier class by defeating Valentino Rossi in a late race battle at the Circuit of the Americas, Suzuki’s first in MotoGP since August, 2016. He was thrilling while contesting the victory at Qatar and Mugello, and aside from a strangely subdued weekend at Le Mans, he has shown podium potential each weekend.

As well as his languid style on the bike, one aspect of Rins’ riding that has really stood out in 2019 is his aggression. Only in Holland and Germany did the 23-year old make the most of Saturday afternoon. Everywhere else he qualified on the third row or lower. Good starts and ruthless overtaking in the early laps therefore became a requisite, and it has became a common sight to see the #42 Suzuki moving through the field at speed. His race craft is now as good as anyone on the MotoGP grid and the second half of 2019 promises to see that continue.

The improvements made by Rins over the last year have been as a result of increased consistency rather than finding blinding speed. His step-by-step progress on the bike has been matched by Suzuki’s methodical approach to developing the GSX-RR.

With the European test team led by Sylvain Guntoli the Frenchman, and crew chief Tom O’Kane, have played a key role in ensuring that as much mileage as possible is achieved. After going down a blind alley with engine development in the past Suzuki has understood the importance of having a strong test team that can offer reliable feedback to the race squad. The investment has clearly paid off.

The GSX-RR was fast everywhere in testing. It’s so agile Jack Miller said “it can turn on a dime piece” after that thrilling fight at Mugello. The corner speed it carried through the Losail International Circuit’s fast curves was “embarrassing” for Suzuki’s rivals, according to Andrea Dovizioso. Its tyre conservation is another strong point.

As a result, Rins hasn’t received many updates for a package that has been a consistent MotoGP front-runner for the past ten months. He tried a new chassis at Assen and has received tweaks to his electronics package through the year.

Its main weakness is a lack of top speed. Rins was “really frustrated” to finish fourth and off the podium in Qatar when he had the pace to win. The same could be said of Mugello, where Honda and Ducati riders utilised their speed advantage on the long straights.

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