After three highly promising pre-season tests, Loris Capirossi starts his second racing season with Rizla Suzuki - at Qatar on Sunday - believing the 2009 GSV-R can take podiums and race wins.
Capirossi's switch to Suzuki, after five seasons at Ducati, brought one podium finish and tenth in the 2008 world championship standings, during a disappointing, injury-interrupted campaign.
The Italian veteran asked Suzuki for a raft of technical changes for 2009, most of which he seems to have got, and has set a top-three lap time at two of the three pre-season tests.
Unfortunately, the Qatar test was the exception, although he still claimed sixth position and is fired up for this weekend's night race, the first MotoGP event with the whole field on Bridgestone tyres.
"It was pleasing to finish the test schedule with a good result at Jerez [third place] and it shows how far the bike has come on in the winter,” said Loris. “But now we have to be focused on racing, because we have to keep improving and try to get the best position we can.
“We want to be on the podium and winning races and I believe that is where we can be,” he insisted. “Qatar has been a tough track for Suzuki in the past, but the test there earlier this year was quite good and hopefully we can get the season off to a strong start!"
Capirossi's team-mate Chris Vermeulen, starting his fourth MotoGP season in 2009, was the strongest GSV-R rider at the night test - claiming fourth position - and was also inside the top six at Sepang and Jerez.
"Last week at Jerez we had a very good test and it gave us a chance to check a few things and get right into the racing mode in time for Qatar,” explained the Australian. “We had an important test at Doha last month and we are going there a lot better prepared than the same time last year.
“Qatar has been a track that we have struggled at in the past, but the new GSV-R seems to be working very well there this year and both Loris and I were well on the pace in the test.
“Hopefully we can stay in the top-five at Qatar, because that is certainly what we are aiming for and if we can it will get the season off to a strong start and give us something to build on throughout the year!”
Vermeulen took Suzuki's first and so far only win of the four-stroke MotoGP era at Le Mans in 2007.
The lone MotoGP Friday practice session at Qatar will take place at 21.30 local time.