13 November 2014
Valencia MotoGP Test: Espargaro sets fastest ever Suzuki lap
“I'm quite optimistic with the package we have and it was good that I could make lap times that were not so far from the top guys" - Aleix Espargaro.
After a tough race weekend, which exposed reliability and top speed problems, Aleix Espargaro provided an optimistic end to Suzuki's MotoGP return by setting the factory's fastest ever lap of the circuit.
Despite still being 'too big' for the GSX-RR, the Spaniard set a best time of 1m 31.874s during Wednesday's final day of testing.
That was under wild-card Randy de Puniet's qualifying pace for the grand prix - Suzuki's first since 2011 - and exactly one-second behind the overall test best by Honda's world champion Marc Marquez, placing Espargaro tenth on the timesheets.
Some of the time deficit will come from top speed, with Espargaro peaking at 312.7km/h, compared with 338.6km/h by Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa. However that was still an increase on the 305.7km/h set on Monday, when Espargaro's best time had been a 1m 32.315s.
“I'm too big for the bike but we know this, modified the fairing and improved a few k's today,” said Espargaro, who has joined the returning Suzuki team after claiming his first MotoGP pole and podium at Forward Yamaha this year.
“Unfortunately, due to the rain we missed the second day completely, but we learned a lot about the bike. The first day was just for understanding the bike and finding the right position, but today we could try to go to the limit of the bike, and I found that the frame is really good and it turns and handles really easily.
“We also made big steps with the electronics side and we made good improvements on the traction control and engine braking.
“I'm quite optimistic with the package we have and it was good that I could make lap times that were not so far from the top guys. Now I'm really looking forward to the next test and further development.”
Rookie team-mate Maverick Vinales matched his best Monday time on the final day, placing him 18th out of the 22 riders and 1.243s behind Espargaro.
“We worked with the old hard tyre then just did one exit with the soft one and I didn't get the most from it,” the former Moto3 champion and multiple Moto2 race winner explained. “I found better grip with the hard tyre and could set the same lap times I made on the first day when I rode with a soft tyre.
“I have learned a lot about the bike and I had so much fun riding it! I like to slide the bike. I look forward to the next test in Jerez, as we have lots more to try there.”
Suzuki, like Ducati and Aprilia, is allowed to compete with the Open class technical benefits. Those include more race fuel and engine changes, which should translate into impressive top speed - something the factory's engineers are working on.
Team manager Davide Brivio said: “The most positive thing was that both riders liked the bike very much and they were happy throughout the test and enjoyed riding the bikes.
“Of course, we still have some areas which have to be improved, such as the engine performance and the electronics, and we will test more in Jerez at the end of the month. Hopefully we will be able to conclude 2014 with another positive test and will be able to start 2015 with a fully sorted bike at the start of the season.”
A test ban will start soon after the private Jerez test, with the next official MotoGP track action taking place at Sepang in Malaysia next February.
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