Author: Oli Rushby Posted: 07 Feb 2015
Suzuki’s all-new MotoGP team showed strong pace in this week’s Sepang test hinting towards a positive season for Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Vinales.
Espargaro finished the test with a fastest lap time of 2’00.486, just 1.6 seconds off the pace set by Marc Marquez.
“We’ve made a lot of improvement with the bike in these three days,” said the Spaniard. “We know what we need to improve but I think the gap to the other riders is not really big apart from the two factory Hondas.”
Both riders have praised the Suzuki’s agility and handling but a power deficit is currently holding them back.
“The biggest issue is the power, but we have improved quite a bit,” Espargaro continued. “We’ve improved the electronics and the frame but to see how good they are we need to see how they work with more power. We have to be patient at the moment.
“I think with the power we have we can be a little bit faster so we need to work more and obviously when we get more power we will be able to improve a lot, especially at tracks like this which is the fastest track of the championship.
“We improved the electronics a lot this week, not as much as I wanted as we still need a little more grip but they are improved. We’ve also improved the geometry a lot. I like this bike, you can go in on the brakes and be really aggressive and for my riding style this is really good. “
When Suzuki turned up for their first MotoGP race in three years with Randy de Puniet in Valencia last season, things did not look good for the Japanese marque. Three blown engines across the weekend highlighted some clear reliability issues with the new GSX-RR.
However, after some work in Japan over the winter Suzuki’s engineers seem to have solved the problem. Neither Espargaro nor Vinales suffered technical problems during the three-day test, a massive step forward from the one-per-day racked up by de Puniet in November.
“Maverick and I have done a lot of laps in these three days and we’ve had no engine problems, not even a small issue, nothing! This is really good improvement,” Espargaro concluded.
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The positive comments from Espargaro bode well for Suzuki. The Spaniard has ridden a wide selection of bikes on the grid including Ducati’s Desmosedici, an open-spec Yamaha YZR-M1 and Aprilia’s super-fast RSV4-powered ART machine and he told journalists in Valencia that it’s the best handling bike he’s ever ridden.
His teammate on the other hand, has a blank canvas when it comes to MotoGP experience so Suzuki has the best of both worlds in their 2015 rider line up.
Vinales has been tipped for success for a long time; a few political issues saw him take longer than he should have to win the Moto3 title which he eventually secured in 2013. Moving to Moto2 last season he won in just his second race.
The youngster set a fastest overall time of 2’00.964 and was by far the most improved rider in this week’s test. On the first day he was over two seconds slower and the gap to his teammate stood at a second. He’d halved this by the end of the week to be just 0.5 off Espargaro’s time and the fastest rookie by almost a second.
“I’m really satisfied,” said Vinales. “We worked really well, we started out with a 2’03 and we’re now at a 2’00! We are happy and quite surprised! The bike works really well with the soft and medium tyre so I think we can have a really good result if we improve the engine.
“I did a long run today but I was really tired. I’m quite surprised how the bike works. The chassis is quite good, so smooth, I can make my own lines, I like it! It’s so much different to Moto2, you need to be so smooth and concentrate so much more on brakes, acceleration, everything. It is difficult to understand as in Moto2 you can be as aggressive as you want and the lap time is there but here in MotoGP it’s much harder.”