AN INTERVIEW WITH SHINICHI SAHARA
“The new GSX-RR will become the best handling machine”

Last year you returned to the team late in the season. How did you approach the technical work when the path was already set, and how much were you able to change the direction of the winter work?

When I returned to the team I didn’t have any hesitation about changing the path because it was set by many tests before the 2017 season, and thanks to our riders’ precise evaluation, the direction we had to go in was very clear. I would like to thank all the factory guys and all the team members who worked incredibly hard to overcome the difficulties.

What were the main problems encountered with the bike, and how could they be solved during 2017?

In the 2017 season the main problem was handling on corner entry. The engine specification which we changed after the 2016 season was the main cause. Unfortunately, we couldn’t change our engine spec. because of the ‘no-concessions rule’, so we had to try some new features to solve the problem instead, and we had to put in double the work to discover how to proceed. But thanks to all the engineers’ efforts we could improve, even with the engine limitations.

How much room for improvement and evolution does this new GSX-RR have?

We will test the new GSX-RR in a way to use the maximum performance of it from the first round. But, to be honest I think there is plenty of room for improvement. We will check the performance during the first test of the year and then evaluate the direction where we should work more.

What kind of machine is the GSX-RR becoming? What are its main characteristics? Handling, power, speed, cornering…?

It is the best handling machine…and totally balanced.

Is the 2018 GSX-RR very different to the 2017 bike (and previous versions)?

We are not taking any chances or gambles for the 2018 GSX-RR compared to the previous prototype, but we changed a lot of different parts - even if they look the same. We have introduced some small changes that we think could increase the total performance of the bike.

Are traction and tyre durability still the pending subjects of the GSX-RR for 2018?

We will test some new things during this winter to improve those subjects.

In 2018 Suzuki will once again receive the concessions they lost after 2016. How much can they help the development and how much do you think you will exploit them?

For the moment, I think we won’t change the engine spec. drastically during the season, so our idea is to have a very good base setting and not need extra help either from the newly-allowed engine development, or the extra tests.

This year the experienced Sylvain Guintoli will be alongside Tsuda-san as a test rider. What was his contribution in 2017? How do these two riders differ from each other?

We used Sylvain’s precise and logical comments for making decisions in regard to the direction to take in 2017. It is difficult for me to say the differences between Sylvain and Tsuda. In my opinion any comment or analysis from a test rider is very valuable for the engineers, so we are happy to have both of them supporting the team and helping us to develop the machine.

Now that you know the Factory riders better and they know the GSX-RR and the working method of Suzuki better, what kind of contribution do you expect from Andrea Iannone and Alex Rins in terms of development first, and then in results, also according to the different characteristics and styles they have?

Andrea has good speed for sure, and together we have learnt the strong and weak points of the GSX-RR. Regarding Alex he had to mature very quickly, he is always very sensitive and astute when it comes to evaluating things on the GSX-RR, and this season he will start in good shape physically.

What has Team SUZUKI ECSTAR lacked to be able to take podium positions? Do you think that this year Suzuki could be back on the podium?

In 2017, we struggled due to wrong choice of engine spec. and that is a fact. In my opinion Andrea and Alex with the 2018 GSX-RR must be competitive enough to battle for the podium, or even the win. Let’s see what is going on and if we have enough pace, but I’m optimistic.

What are the main personal goals of Sahara-san for 2018?

I’d like both Andrea and Alex to stay in the top group and battle for the podium in every race and winning some races of course!