By Peter McLaren
Having been a race winner with Ducati for four of his five seasons on a MotoGP four-stroke, Loris Capirossi
knows what's required for grand prix success - and the Italian believes his new Suzuki is already 'at a high level'.
Capirossi and team-mate Chris Vermeulen
may have been ranked just ninth and tenth fastest at the end of last week's Sepang test - with almost equal lap times - but their real pace was much higher, since both set their best times on race tyres, unlike seven of the eight riders ahead of them.
When comparing race tyre times, Vermeulen and Capirossi were actually fourth and fifth - less than a tenth behind Honda's Nicky Hayden
and the same margin ahead of Yamaha's Valentino Rossi. Capirossi's former team-mate Casey Stoner
led the way on race tyres, 0.8secs in front of the GSV-Rs.
But 34-year-old Capirossi, a former 250 and double 125cc world champion, says one of the biggest boosts during his young Suzuki career came from what happened off the race track, following a tough test at Phillip Island.
"I am really excited. After many years at Ducati I have a new toy and I'd say that Suzuki is really strong, because when we tested at Phillip Island in November we struggled with some parts of the bike. We had a big meeting and said we would like 'that and that' - and Suzuki did it - this is very positive for the season ahead," he explained.
Capirossi, Ducati's team leader from 2002 to 2006 - before unexpectedly struggling, and being overshadowed by Stoner, during the first year of 800cc racing - tested a new engine and fairing at Sepang.
The Italian was also seen to slipstream past his Ducati replacement Marco Melandri
- who seems to be suffering the same kind of power-delivery issues that blighted much of Capirossi's 2007 season - suggesting a promising power output for the '08 GSV-R.
"We've tested the new engine here, which I think is a big improvement, and a new fairing, which is also working quite well, so I'm really excited," he repeated. "We can improve more and more - some things are not perfect - but the bike is already at a high level. It is particularly good under hard braking."
After five years with an Italian team, it has naturally taken a little time for Loris to adjust to his new English-speaking environment, but he believes that - following four winter tests - Paul Denning's squad knows what he needs.