Whilst acknowledging that Rizla Suzuki has endured a start to the MotoGP 2010 campaign that has been far from 'ideal' and recognising that they 'need a little bit everywhere' in order to be able to take on the premier class' grandees, team manager Paul Denning contends the forthcoming round at Le Mans could just play to the British-based outfit's strengths.
A qualifying spot of fifth had hinted at far more than distant ninth-place for GP 'record man' Loris Capirossi
in the Qatar curtain-raiser last month, whilst the veteran Italian disappointingly crashed out early on at Jerez. Young team-mate and 250cc graduate Álvaro Bautista, by contrast, got tangled up with another rider under the floodlights of Losail before producing a strong showing to place P10 in front of his home fans in Spain.
Those results have left the pairing both right down towards the foot of the points table, with Suzuki by the same token bottom of the manufacturers' table – but Denning asserted that the blend of youth and experience on the riding line-up is the right one to help progress the team up the grid.
“Not ideal, because we've crashed in two of them and only just made the top ten with the two finishes we did have,” he reflected of the beginning to the campaign, speaking exclusively to Crash.net Radio
. “It's certainly been less-than-perfect, but at the same time I feel more positive after Jerez than I did after Qatar based on Álvaro having a really good fightback from 16th and only finishing a couple of seconds off seventh place. Loris was also pushing really hard and immediately passed a lot of riders, before he unfortunately dropped it on the third lap.
“Loris is obviously the most experienced rider in Grand Prix [history], and I don't think any other rider is likely to equal his level of experience ever. For us at the moment it's the right mix, because Álvaro gives very accurate feedback and really rides the bike hard, but it gives him a bit of a security blanket to know that someone as experienced as Loris is feeling the same stuff and giving Suzuki the same information.
“Álvaro is a rookie and I'd say over the course of a race he's a second off the guy that's winning; that doesn't sound an awful lot and it's not, but to find the last bit is always more difficult – and we're working hard to try and achieve that.”
As he looks forwards now, Denning admits that Suzuki has some work to do to make inroads into the advantage currently held by MotoGP's big three – Yamaha, Ducati and Honda – and the fact that the team is the only one in the field without a satellite operation does tend to mean development is occasionally not as quick. Still, before even contemplating providing anybody else with bikes, Suzuki needs to get its own house in order, he insists – starting in France this weekend.
“In some ways, yes,” the Englishman mused, when asked if the absence of satellite squads is a disadvantage. “If Yamaha go testing with four riders, then they're getting double the data and information that we are with two, but Suzuki's racing programme doesn't allow for the supply of satellite teams. Unfortunately, there's just not the facility to provide that at the moment, and frankly-speaking, we need to concentrate on getting the bike and the factory team somewhere near the front before we start worrying about supplying customer teams.
“We're not in the front group, which is always the target – so we need to keep chipping away. We need to improve a little bit everywhere. To improve the engine this year is nearly impossible because of the six-engine regulation, so the Suzuki factory is focussed on the chassis more than anything else. We tested a new swing-arm and a new chassis at Jerez after the race, which was interesting and we got some useful stuff from that.
“We won the grand prix [at Le Mans] in the rain in 2007 with Chris [Vermeulen]. Neither of our riders actually like the track very much – it's very stop-start – but one big advantage our bike has is that it's super-stable under braking and we can pass people on the brakes quite well.
“It's a track that has straights that aren't too long and lots of slow corners, so hopefully we can have a competitive showing. The track at Le Mans has really low grip, so we just hope for decent weather to get the grip up – and fingers-crossed that will happen and we can have a good weekend.”TO LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW IN FULL: CLICK HERE