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Capirossi: Suzuki is at a high level
29 January 2008
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.
"The most important thing for me is that the team now understands what I need and are working in that direction," he explained. "Every time we go out we try something different and this is a really good way to improve. Sometimes we go the wrong way, but often what we try is better and that is why we have improved our lap times a lot each day."
Nine years may separate Capirossi and team-mate Chris Vermeulen, but both have similar characters and the #65 has plenty of experience of riding alongside Australians.
"I have a great relationship with Chris," said Loris, now the most experienced rider in the premier-class. "This is my third Australian - the first one was Troy [Bayliss], the second one was Casey and now Chris. I always have a great relationship with Australian guys because they are so friendly and it is good to work with them."
Capirossi will be back in Australia later this week, when he and Vermeulen will be among the teams testing at Phillip Island - an outing that will have particular significance for Suzuki, since the high-speed seaside circuit was one of its toughest racetracks in 2007.
The team will also be able to make direct comparisons with its form during the private November test.
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