What is going on with Suzuki’s MotoGP team this year?

Picture: Suzuki Racing

Ecstar Suzuki haven’t been having much fun this year and the problems are not over for Andrea Iannone and Davide Brivio’s squad. Only a week ago, everything went tits up in the Italian’s garage with a tyre problem in the qualifying, a pitlane crash following an incident with Aleix Espargaro during the flag-to-flag bike-swaps and then a bike equipped with a wet and a slick when he re-joined the race.

After the Brno test, when Suzuki brought a new clutch, the Iannone looked more confident and arrived at the Red Bull Ring, the track where last year he had scored his first win, excited although he knew that this year he has not the weapon to fight with the top riders.

Saturday’s FP4 was another cold shower for Andrea Iannone, with his Suzuki suffering an engine problem. Fortunately he saved the session and qualified in tenth. It’s a mixed up pot of weirdness so we asked team manager Brivio, what’s up?

What a tough season. Did you expect to struggle so much?
“Honestly, I thought Andrea Iannone’s adaptation progress would be quicker and for sure the first part of the season didn’t meet our expectations. There hasn’t been yet the chemistry between rider and machine so the rider is still adapting and we are developing the bike that can suit him better.”

Last year Suzuki won a race with Maverick Vinales. Was it Vinales that made the difference?
“Alex is a rookie and needs to learn MotoGP, Andre needs to learn the Suzuki. The bike hasn’t changed too much from last year, but we are changing it now to meet Iannone’s requests. We are working on several areas: the grip in the corner exit, the acceleration, the braking as Andrea is struggling to stop the bike and enter the corner.”

Which are the strongest and the weakest points of the GSX-RR?
“The chassis and the agility of the bike remain the strongest points, while we are still working on the drive grip. We struggle to stop the bike and in corner entry, so in Brno we introduced a new clutch and tested several settings.”

How is the development going?
“The new clutch is interesting, especially at the entry of the corners and also in the braking points. We introduced it in the Czech Republic and we used in Austria to confirm its positive points. Alex tested the chassis Andrea had since the Barcelona test and he is using it here. At Brno test, we also worked on some parts that are in our engine plan for next season. I hoped the Brno test could be a turning point for Iannone. Also Rins progressed a lot especially in the race weekend in Brno and also in qualifying”.

Are you planning the use of the carbon fibre forks?
“We have them available, but we haven’t used them so far.”

Chief engineer Sahara-san came back mid-season, is it a sign that the project needs a change?
“We are working now at the 2018 bike so as Sahara is the new project leader, it’s now the moment to give indications for the new project. At the end of the 2011 season when Suzuki withdrew, Sahara moved to the production bikes and worked on the GSX-R. He wanted to return to MotoGP and it was possible once he finished the GSX-R project. At the same time we did a great job with Terada-san, who started the new MotoGP project from scratch.”

Which guidelines are you following for the 2018 season?
“In Japan they are working at the new engine.”

Was it a mistake to change both riders for this year?
“From a technical point of view it was useful to have a rider who had already experience in Suzuki, especially when Rins got injured and Iannone was alone to develop the bike, while he was still adapting to the machine. From a sports point of view, once Vinales decided to leave, we decided to review the line up and opted for experience with Iannone and a rookie with Rins.”

How difficult is it to keep the motivation high when results are not coming?
“It’s not easy until Iannone can repeat what he has done in the past. I’m confident that this will happen soon”.

Are you using the dashboard to communicate with the riders in case of a flag-to-flag race?
“Not yet. We are not ready to use it and this system has also some limitations as there is only one computer provided by Dorna in the rear of the garage which is in the wrong place, we can inform only one rider at the time and only in certain sectors, because the rider can see the message only when he passes in the T1, T2 and T3. It’s a bit complicated and so this is an experimental phase as the messages will be compulsory from next year. So I hope we will be able to use the dashboard soon.”

Returning to a track like Silverstone where Suzuki won last year, does it represent an extra boost?
“Of course, contrary to Red Bull Ring that has strong braking, Silverstone is a track with flowing corners that suits our bike better.”

When should we expect the podium?
“I hope before the end of the season.”

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