This season is unpredictable for everybody. The pandemic has changed the face of the World Championship and turned it on its head. An engine freeze, a 14-race calendar, and a brand-new circuit (Algarve International Circuit in Portugal) are just some of the features of 2020. But the biggest factor is perhaps that with this shortened season there’s no margin for error and teams need to be at the top of their game.
Before the start of the season, the Suzuki GSX-RR showed great potential in testing but the big question was whether this could be converted into solid results and points. Project Leader, Shinichi Sahara tells us more;
“Personally I think that the 2020 GSX-RR is working as well as could be expected so far. I knew the bike was developed with our ‘step-by-step philosophy’ and I had high hopes that it could work well with our great riders. Things are going very well so far.”
Things are going very well so far.
2019’s GSX-RR was also a great package, being rider friendly and very strong on corner speed. But in 2020 the Suzuki GSX-RR has made another step forward, becoming a very consistent and balanced machine ready to take top points. Another key point of this year’s bike is that it seems to be competitive at almost every track. When Sahara is asked about the key points of evolution from 2019 to 2020 he says simply: “A little of everything - chassis, bodywork, engine and electronics. All the things we updated improved the bike’s performance, even on the tracks where we had struggled in the past. I hope it also works well on the tracks we will visit in the rest of the 2020 season. Of course, we continue to try to achieve further improvements. We are already looking to the future and focused on achieving victories - we want to continue making history.”, Sahara remarks.
“We are never completely satisfied with the performance of our bike, and the factory never stop trying to improve. I think that is common to anyone racing at the highest level. The guys in the Team and the Factory are working to improve the balance of the bike track by track. The main thing is that we have a very good base package with our GSX-RR. But we still need to improve one-lap pace to achieve better grid positions.”
We are already looking to the future and focused on achieving victories - we want to continue making history.
As mentioned above, this 2020 season is nothing like the rest of the Championships experienced in history for many reasons. The COVID-19 situation has condensed everything, creating a highly competitive season with many contenders and several different race winners. So does this mean it’s time for Suzuki to push even harder?
“I think it’s important for us not to get panicked in such a weird situation. We’re just trying to behave as normally as possible; going about our business and focusing on making the bike work correctly. We’re not putting pressure on our riders, but letting them naturally show their capabilities. We want to keep a cool head!”, Sahara explains.
One of the anomalies of this year, which will also impact on 2021, is the freezing of engine development. How does this rule affect Suzuki? “We had in-depth discussions with Dorna and the FIM about how to survive in this difficult situation. Between all the manufacturers and all the parties involved, the decision was taken to freeze the development - not only for this year but for 2021. This helps us to save the budget a bit and it’s the same for everyone, so we don’t see it as an obstacle.”
To end, let’s talk about Suzuki’s riders, Alex Rins and Joan Mir. This is Alex’s 4th year in the Suzuki Ecstar Team and only Joan’s second year. How does Sahara-san rate the riders’ performances and results?
“I have never had any doubt about our riders’ performance.
Actually, both Alex and Joan started showing us their strengths even earlier than our expectation”, Sahara replies.
The 2020 MotoGP season may be a strange one, but for Team Suzuki Ecstar there is still plenty to celebrate - the 100th anniversary of the brand and 60 years in racing…
Is the MotoGP title the next milestone for Suzuki? One thing is clear, The entire team is more than ready to continue making history.