By Peter McLaren
After guiding his Rizla Suzuki British Superbike team to title glory with John Reynolds last season, Paul Denning accepted the considerable challenge of trying to repeat his BSB success with the Suzuki MotoGP team, by accepting the role of team manager from 2005.
caught up with Paul at the recent London MotoGP pre-season launch, where we asked the Brit about his move to MotoGP, his first impressions of the championship, what riders John Hopkins and Kenny Roberts Jr have to do to impress him this year, the new rules and race calendar, the differences between MotoGP and Superbike racing, if Suzuki's SBK stars could be given wild-card GP rides and much more.
For those with audio, the full interview can also be found in the Crash.net Radio
Paul, during your discussions with Suzuki before accepting the job, how did they convince you that they are serious about their MotoGP project and are fully behind making a success of it?
They really didn't need to. When it became clear that Garry Taylor would be stopping as team manager at the end of 2004 it was not a difficult thing for me to accept Suzuki's invitation to accept the management of the team, simply because I know Suzuki is serious.
They've won the championship before, fully intend to do it again and two or three slightly difficult years don't mean that a manufacturer has lost its way with regard to what it takes. I hope that a little bit of fresh input is just going to help gel the thing a little bit more quickly.
I assuming that when you accepted the job you had a rough idea of where you'd like to be at this stage - heading into your first race - could you tell us how close you are to that ideal?
My target was, and still is now, to improve dramatically over 2004. It was a very, very difficult year last year and we have to show Suzuki riders near the front of the field and challenging for the front group.
That's what everybody is after at Suzuki; it's a realistic position (but) I think the riders, particularly Hopkins, are looking for more than that - immediately - and I think with Bridgestone tyres and the motorcycle having taken such a big step that becomes more and more of a possibility.
But we're not kidding ourselves, there's an awful lot to do and there's quality competition out there, we're just looking to keep our heads down and try and find that big improvement.