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Suzuki goes from ‘terrible’ to top at Sepang
1 January 1901
After being a surprise fastest during the opening day of 2009 MotoGP testing, against a full line-up of rivals at Sepang, Loris Capirossi revealed the full extent of Suzuki's winter work with the GSV-R - a bike that he says was 'terrible' just one year ago.
Capirossi led the Thursday field with a best lap time of 2min 1.869sec, placing the 125cc, 250cc, 500cc and MotoGP race winner 0.169sec in front of former Ducati team-mate Casey Stoner. Capirossi's team-mate Chris Vermeulen further underlined the GSV-R's impressive start to the year by setting the fourth fastest lap time.
Capirossi's best lap was also 0.38sec under the fastest race lap set by Valentino Rossi on his way to victory in last October's Malaysian Grand Prix and one second quicker than Capirossi had managed en route to seventh position.
With the effects of the global economic crises being felt throughout the premier-class grid - and Suzuki having claimed just one win since the start of the four-stroke era in 2002, a wet victory by Vermeulen at Le Mans 2007 - many might have doubted Suzuki's commitment to its grand prix project heading into 2009.
However, any fears that the factory would scale back on development appear unfounded. If anything, Suzuki seems to have increased its input and Capirossi believes they have now given him 'the bike he wants'.
“I think what Suzuki has done is great because the whole world is difficult now, with financial problems, but Suzuki has worked really hard on this bike,” praised Capirossi, speaking outside his pit garage on Thursday evening.
“In November, when we went to Japan to do wind tunnel testing, I asked for a lot of modifications to the bike - and when I got here this morning I had everything!” revealed the #65. “It's a completely new bike; smaller and lower. It has a small seat, small tank, new riding position and a different weight distribution.
“We changed the weight distribution more towards the front, changed the engine position to get more agility and moved the centre of gravity down. Since last year I've tried eight different chassis' and tomorrow [Friday] we will have two more to test. We are also working on the aerodynamic side. The new bike is not only better for me but also for Chris.
“We always had a problem with the front last year - I never had a good feeling - and we couldn't use the front tyre construction used by Stoner and Rossi until the end of the year when I had a new chassis, because it was not good for our bike. We could not get enough heat into it. This was why I said we have to change the weight distribution because in 2009 everyone will have to use that type of front tyre.
“For sure we have to do more, the new engine [which has silencers] is a little bit better but we have to concentrate more on that side, but overall our bike has improved a lot.”
Both Suzuki riders changed between an older spec blue-liveried bike and a black 2009 racer for back-to-back comparisons throughout Thursday, but Capirossi was quick to point out that even the older (blue) bike was one evolution forward from the 2008 race bike.
“We don't really have last year's bike here because at the Valencia test we worked on a prototype bike, with a new 2009 engine, and then at Phillip Island we changed it more. Then, at Phillip Island, we compared the prototype to last year's bike and we decided that the prototype is better.
“Now here we have that '09 prototype [from Phillip Island] and another new bike and we say the new bike is better than the '09 prototype. That is what is so impressive”
Capirossi then revealed just how far the project had come compared with one year ago, when he first joined the team after five seasons at Ducati.
“The problem last season was that we changed nothing. When I came to Suzuki at the end of 2007, Suzuki had already made the prototype for 2008 and when I first rode the bike here it was terrible,” Loris stated.
“I said 'wow guys, this bike... no way!' Nothing worked. The setting was not good, the chassis was not good. I said 'please I want to go back' but the problem was that Suzuki was already building parts to last the full season with that new bike.
“I said to Suzuki we have to modify, modify, modify but it took a long time and we received only one new chassis in Brno - and from Brno we were much faster - and now we have the bike I want.
"Normally I am so clear when I want something, especially during testing. Suzuki agrees with me 100 per cent because in the past Suzuki has had many good riders, but maybe nobody with strong experience for developing the bike. This is my 20th season in the world championship and I know just about everything.”
But it's not just the GSV-R that's in better shape at the start of 2009; so is its rider:
"I feel really good," said a determined Capirossi. "I've trained f****** hard all winter to be in the best condition ever. I've been with my personal trainer all the time and every day I did a different kind of training - strength, balance, respiration - I feel much better and I will keep this level all season."
Suzuki is riding without Rizla logos at Sepang.