The Suzuki Ecstar MotoGP team is all ready for the upcoming 2017 season opener at the Losail Circuit in Qatar this coming weekend.
Here the team’s Technical Manager, Ken Kawauchi, talks about the work done on the GSX-RR during the winter development, the pre-season testing and his expectations for the 2017 MotoGP season.
“This new season will be a very exciting one for all of us at Team SUZUKI ECSTAR. We have changed both the riders and this means to start working again for some reasons, as we cannot focus only to develop the bike but we also must pay attention to adapt it to their riding style, which is obviously different from the previous ones. This means also that we had to double check our reference points for every step of development we took.
I must say that I’m pretty satisfied of the work we have done during winter, as we managed to introduce many improvements which the riders seemed to appreciate. The Suzuki philosophy since when we got back to racing in 2015 has always been not to completely redesign the machine but to try to improve the performances with a step-by-step approach.
After last year we knew our strengths were the agility of the chassis and the rolling effectiveness in the middle of corners; and also with the seamless gearbox we made a huge step forward. So, we didn’t want to risk to lose these advantages with a brand-new project. In fact, let me tell you a story; after the first day of testing in Malaysia, it was already late evening, we were all in the garage eager to listen to Andrea’s feedback about the machine.
He spoke to us for a very long time, giving us many, many areas to work on, he looked happy and satisfied but he gave us so many suggestions that at some point I doubted he liked the bike. But in the end, after more than an hour listening to him, he looked at me and said: ‘Hey, but don’t get me wrong, this base is great, so don't change anything on the base, please! Let’s just finalise here and there.’ This allowed me to breathe again…
We as the MotoGP team and also the R&D department in Hamamatsu worked really hard this winter to deliver the new riders an even more performing machine. We knew we had to further improve the engine power, because riders have never enough power, but we wanted absolutely to keep the rideability of the engine. There is no meaning to have a full bunch of horsepower if then the power delivery is uncontrollable. This is also a philosophy of our brand itself and we strongly believe in it.
The new specs of the engine proved to be effective, the riders liked them a lot and so we could make a step forward. Beside this, another important aspect of the development is the traction, so we worked on different specs of the chassis and also with the swingarm, together with the suspensions, and once again after nine days of testing we can call ourselves happy as the riders found the modifications effective. We are not yet satisfied, we still have some troubles in that, but hopefully the direction we found will give us the deserved results.
To have such different new riders is very interesting from a development point of view. We can have the reference of Andrea, who is a well experienced MotoGP rider and can speak from his knowledge of such performing machines, but it is also interesting to listen to Alex’s comments. He is fresh to the MotoGP machine, for us it sounds like we are creating something from the scratch book with him, as his comments may not be as sharp as Andrea’s, but they are fresh and they give us a different angle to think on.
It’s an exciting challenge for us and I’m very happy to see that we are managing to keep such a positive environment in the garage; the riders speak a lot with each other and also the crews are continuously exchanging data and information and this is crucial for us to speed up the development being the factory GSX-RR, the only two Suzukis in the paddock.
Revising the winter test, I’m happy to see that we have done many improvements and steps forward, the riders could find better effectiveness and the development has proceeded smoothly. I believe Andrea and Alex can bring a positive enthusiasm to the Team and also we can aim to positive results.
After last year’s podiums, we have lost our concessions, and now we are facing our competitors with the same weapons. This is exciting for me and I really hope we can get some more podiums and be soon ready to fight for the title.”