“With Andrea and Alex in good shape we will try to surprise our fans”

You will start your fourth season leading Team SUZUKI ECSTAR. How much has the team grown in these three years despite obstacles?

The team for sure has grown a lot because when we started in 2015 everything was new. It was a rookie year with new elements we had put together, and only a very few people came from previous Suzuki experiences. During these three years we have got to know each other, but we also looked at how the organisation could be improved: we added more people with new functions. We will start the 2018 season with basically all the same people and this gives us some stability, and I hope it will pay off in the future.

If you had to rate all of these three years, what grade would you give to each one?

The first year was the very beginning and it was quite surprising honestly speaking, because we achieved some good results during practice and we were quite stable with our performance during the whole year, despite having a rookie rider. If I had to put a grade between 1 and 10 I would say that we deserved a 7 considering our lower expectations. In the second year we won one race at Silverstone, got some podiums, and finished 4th in the Championship with Viñales improving a lot as a MotoGP rider. I will give that year an 8. And last year unfortunately was very disappointing because we spent some time trying to improve and fix some areas of the bike and also we had two new riders, one of them a rookie, so it was quite a difficult year. I would give it a 5, not a complete negative thanks to the last four races where we improved our performance with both riders.

The 2017 season was below expectations, but yet gave some positives to the Team. What lessons and/or positive things would you take from last season?

The 2017 season has been very important because when you are facing difficulties you become stronger, and I really appreciated that all the team guys stuck together, and kept working hard despite the disappointments. But it was also important because we started thinking about what we could improve and we never gave up. In the last four races where we did better we showed that our perseverance paid off. It was in any case an important year for our Team.

Reviewing the past year Suzuki faced some troubles with effective development of the GSX-RR, but then in the second half of the season and at the end-of-season tests the performances improved. What can be expected for 2018?

In the past seasons our main problem was the configuration of the engine, that it was... let’s say, not the best one we could have chosen. And we faced some problems with bike behaviour. Due to the regulations we couldn’t change the engine, so we had to manage that problem and we found some advantages whilst trying to develop other areas of the bike like chassis and clutch… which overall made the bike improve during the season. For the future, we will try to carry on with all these improvements because in 2018, in theory, our engine configuration should be better. For 2018 I expect an improved package and we will see how much better it will be.

The return to the development concessions which had been lost in 2017 could perhaps be an important help for the team on the technical development side of the bike? How can Suzuki take advantage of them?

I have to say it is a small advantage because in reality the only real advantage is that we might be able to develop the engine if needed, and we can use two more units if necessary; nine instead of seven. We also have more testing possibilities but, honestly speaking, if we look at the calendar it is very difficult to have time to do many tests. So to go back to the question, it’s not a big advantage in terms of testing, it just allows you to develop the engine and this is good in case you make a mistake. I would say it doesn’t change the results drastically.

The adaptation of Andrea Iannone to the GSX-RR took longer than expected. With a year of experience and some important evolutions in the bike, how far do you think he can get in 2018?

The adaptation of Andrea took a long time but I would say by the end of the season I think it was done. After the Aragon test in September, Andrea switched and I think he now understands Suzuki much better; the bike and the team. I think he is ready for a great season in 2018 where I feel he will be able to use all his potential if we are able to provide him with a competitive package. We have to allow him to use all his talent, which is very strong.

Rins, on the other hand, had to fight against injuries, but by the end of the year his performance was very good. What do you expect from him this year as he is not a rookie any more?

Unfortunately, due to the injuries Alex was left with only half of the season to learn and improve, because he was basically out until the end of June. But I would say that he managed very well, with just a few races he concentrated all his learning in a short time, but was able to learn a lot and to show his ability. We have great confidence in his talent and potential for the future and we look forward to starting the new season with the same feeling he had in Valencia, when he finished fourth. It is the same for Alex; if we are able to give him a good package I think he can have a great season.

Will there be important changes in the team with the technical/engineering staff?

Not so much. We will continue with almost everything the same. Stability is really important and I hope to maintain that as much as possible.

Regarding the bike, what is the most radical change we will see this season?

There are no radical changes but we improved different areas, especially the engine, with a different configuration, but also hopefully a little bit more power. We improved the chassis as well and that is a job we started during last season when we had to work a lot to solve our problems. It was an opportunity to explore some new areas, and we have in mind some more small steps to test during the year. Also electronics is a never-ending job, we will be working hard to understand the best way to get the most potential from the Magneti Marelli electronics. Our guys are working really hard, and I hope we can see good improvements from the first race.

If we said that the goal of Suzuki this year is to consistently fight for the podium, would we be dreaming? Or talking about a serious chance?

I think fighting for the podium in every race is a dream, but let’s say that we have a real chance to do it sometimes. Of course, we hope as often as possible, but the most important thing right now is to continue the process to get closer and closer to the Top 3 teams, and to take the podium opportunities when they come. With Andrea and Alex in good shape and able to show their potential we will try to surprise the public.