Rizla Suzuki believes a switch to the favoured front tyre compound and some set-up tweaks will be enough for Loris Capirossi and Chris Vermeulen to close the gap on their rivals, after finishing sixth and 14th respectively in Friday night's single free practice session for the Qatar season-opener.
Suzuki was the slowest manufacturer, in terms of race laps, at last season's inaugural night race, but both riders have been consistently fast during winter testing - including fourth and sixth places at Qatar last month - raising expectations of a regular podium challenge from the 2009 GSV-R.
That potential may not have been illustrated on Friday, when Capirossi - starting his 20th season in grand prix racing - was 1.415sec from fastest man Casey Stoner (Ducati), but the Italian believes he knows which path to follow.
"For the first practice it was not too bad, but we did struggle a bit with the setting,” confessed Capirossi. “In the recent test it was not perfect so we tried a new one and this didn't work as well so we will use some stuff from that and go back to the old one.”
Both Capirossi and Vermeulen used the softer compound front tyre for the duration of the 45-minute session, thereby saving their allocation of the more competitive harder compound for Saturday and Sunday…
However, of the 18 riders, only Stoner, Jorge Lorenzo (fourth) and Niccolo Canepa (17th) tried the harder compound front tyre on Friday, meaning that most of Suzuki's rivals have also saved their supply of that rubber for Saturday and Sunday.
"We have a limit on tyres and didn't really want to use any of the hard front tyres that we will be using for racing,” confirmed Vermeulen. “We tried to make the softer one work and we were going not too bad in the beginning of session, but at the end I kept the front tyre in and there was a lot of movement in the front of the bike and struggled to keep corner speed up. It was a bit frustrating that we couldn't go as fast as we have been round here, but I still have all my hard front tyres left and hopefully the speed will come back when we put that in.”
“We didn't achieve what we wanted to this evening in terms of the result, but we are fully aware that the favoured front tyre for both riders wasn't used, so that we could keep enough for tomorrow and race-day,” commented team manager Paul Denning. “I am sure with the data the guys have collected tonight - and the favoured tyres - we'll be a lot closer to the sharp end tomorrow!"
Due to sand making the track surface abrasive, all riders ran the harder compound Bridgestone rear during the second half of the session.
“From the test here last month, we expected most teams to choose the [harder] compound rear this weekend,” said Bridgestone's Tohru Ubukata. “Only three riders chose the [harder] front tyre today, but I think that most teams will use [harder] compound front and rear tyres for the second practice session tomorrow as it is run earlier in the evening so the temperature will be higher again.”