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Paul Denning - Q&A

Voltcom Crescent boss Paul Denning looks ahead to what many are tipping to be Suzuki's most competitive season in years...
Crash.net:
You've got a new rider line-up and new title sponsor, it's almost a kind of new era. How excited are you?

Paul Denning:
Very. We've been working hard over the last three to four months and we certainly got lucky with the Voltcom title sponsorship following Fixi's withdraw, which had left us with a difficult whole to fill.

You obviously make your own luck to a certain extent, but we also got lucky with the rider line-up in terms of right place, right time to get those deals completed. So we've ended up with a solid team, solid budget and the strongest rider line-up we've ever had. So yes, very happy.

Crash.net:
The rider line-up has certainly created a lot of buzz. How much of a coup do you think it is to secure Eugene Laverty and Alex Lowes?

Paul Denning:
Difficult to say in terms of a coup in that you just work towards a result and do your absolute best to get everything done. I don't want to say that we did anything better than any other team or manufacturer to secure those riders. It requires an awful lot of luck in terms of timing and what other teams or manufacturers are doing at that point in time.

With Alex, it's easy to say when you look at the BSB performances and how fantastic he was during the second half of last year - but it's still no guarantee. You can't just assume he was going to jump on the Suzuki at World Superbike level and be as fast as he has.

So it's easy to say after the event that it was a real coup! Everyone knows what an exciting rider he was from BSB, but it's not like we could sit here and say, 'Yeah, we knew he'd be in the top two or three in testing straight away, at tracks he's never seen.' He's outperformed our expectations without doubt.

With Eugene it's very, very simple: He's one of the best riders you can get. You start from the top and work down. Eugene was the best rider available and we're delighted to have made it work.

Crash.net:
Testing has gone very well. Have Suzuki from a factory perspective been sitting up and taking notice?

Paul Denning:
Well we've only done a couple of tests. It's too early. Let's try and be competitive in the races and see what we can achieve there before we get too excited. But the relationship with Suzuki has been very good over many, many years.

As a business we started selling Suzuki motorcycles in 1963 and have worked with them in racing since 1998. There is a lot of history. They are a very traditional Japanese business, let's say. They are not going to suddenly be throwing money or support at us because we've had a couple of good tests.

Let's see what happens over the course of the championship and try and do a good job throughout the year.

Crash.net:
Is it something you are looking to try and achieve, to get Suzuki to have a greater involvement?

Paul Denning:
No, we are quite happy really as we are at the moment. I think if and when a brand new bike is introduced then more factory involvement would be necessary in order to be competitive. But as it is at the moment the relationship is great.

They help us when we need help, when we ask questions. They are very interested in the technical developments we make. We've got the freedom to do what we need to with the bike, but they are there to help and be as helpful as they can in the background.

They are not developing the machine. That is our responsibility. But they are very happy to assist with feedback to that development. The motorcycle market is tough at the moment so we're just grateful to be able to go World Superbike racing.

Crash.net:
Where are you focussing in terms of improvements to the bike this year?

Paul Denning:
Power delivery via the electronic control strategies and a myriad of detailed changes. Isolate some of those changes in terms of cost, hardware and money and it's debatable - but add enough of those very small detailed changes together and they will make a difference.

I think the bike this year is going to be an easier bike to ride over a race distance and be consistently fast with. That is the target. We weren't far away last year at a number of races.

I think with the riders we have this year and with the improvements to the bike the plan is to make that performance level more consistent.

Crash.net:
How much more do you think there is to come from the bike? Leon Camier was always saying he felt like it had the best chassis…

Paul Denning:
It is interesting because Eugene has come from the Aprilia and Alex from the Honda. Two very different bikes. Both of them immediately felt very natural on the bike. They could ride and get a feeling for it straight away. Eugene feels the chassis is nicer handling and more forgiving than the Aprilia. You can make a mistake and get away with it, which was difficult to do on the Aprilia.

It's a well sorted bike, but it is an older machine. The bike basically dates from 2009 in terms of its design concept, but that also means there is a lot of experience and knowledge behind it. So there are pluses and minuses.

Crash.net:
There are some regulation changes for this year, including the engine cap. Is that something Suzuki might benefit from, if manufacturers like Aprilia and Kawasaki have to rein things in a bit?

Paul Denning:
As you say, it's a case of if they have to rein things in a bit. My guess would be that they are bright enough, clever enough and hungry enough that they won't need to. I think they'll find a solution, to find a similar amount of performance within that cap.

The mileage cap - for me if it was five engines I'd be really happy. Because last year we were looking at 2500 kilometres per motor anyway. This year we have eight engines over 14 rounds, so looking at 1300-1400 kilometres an engine. So it's really not a high mileage anyway. So I don't think it'll make much difference.

Crash.net:
What do you make of the regulations in general and the direction Superbike is heading? Is it something you think is good for the sport?

Paul Denning:
Possibly. Let's wait and see. The 2015 regulations are not final yet. There's a fair bit of discussion still to be had, I hope, before those regulations are final. But in general, in terms of cost cutting and simplification, I think it makes absolute sense.

Crash.net:
Touching on Leon Camier, how do you think he will fare in MotoGP this year?

Paul Denning:
It's going to be tough, because there is so much to learn in terms of the character of the tyres, character of the bike etc. But he is talented enough and fast enough to represent himself really, really well.

So many unknowns and the other guys have already tested at Sepang. There is a lot to do to play catch-up. If he believes in himself and pushes hard as I know he will, I think he can acquaint himself very well. I certainly hope he does.

Crash.net:
Regarding the new Open class in MotoGP, is that something that Crescent – as a team with prior MotoGP experience - could be tempted by in the future?

Paul Denning:
No. Not at all. But the regulation is great, the idea is to allow closer parity between the manufacturers' full factory bike and the customer lease or customer purchase bike. Honda and Yamaha have gone a slightly different approach but I think in both cases they will be pretty competitive.

The four litre fuel difference is massive and potentially so is the option to use a softer rear tyre. They've only done a few days of testing so let's see, but the performance of Espargaro on the FTR Yamaha has been a real eye opener.

That is a real pukka privateer bike. It is an M1 engine but it won't be the latest chassis or the latest swing-arm and the rest of the bike is made by FTR. To have it that competitive, that quickly, is an awesome job.

Crash.net:
Former Crescent MotoGP, WSBK and BSB rider John Hopkins is back in BSB this year. How happy are you to see him back on a bike?

Paul Denning:
Awesome yeah. I've not seen him since he's been out in America, for the last year or so, but delighted he is back and we'll be seeing him shortly because he'll be living fairly locally to us.

Really looking forward to seeing him riding as well. Just hope he builds his way back into it step-by-step. He won't be at 100% straight away, but John at 80% is good enough to compete in BSB immediately. So I think he'll do well. 

Crash.net:
Finally, come the end of the WSBK season, what results will you be happy with?

Paul Denning:
Just to be competitive. What that means in terms of overall results I've no idea. To underestimate Kawasaki, Aprilia, Honda or Ducati would be a huge error. I want us to challenge at the front group and be competitive all year. What that measures out as in terms of overall results I'm not sure, but I'll be happy if we achieve that.


Tagged as: Suzuki , Paul Denning

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Laverty and Denning, Australian WSBK test and race, 2014
Denning, Australian WSBK test and race, 2014
Team Voltcom Crescent Suzuki, Qatar WSBK 2014
Team Voltcom Crescent Suzuki, Qatar WSBK 2014
Voltcom Crescent Suzuki, Magny Cours WSBK race1 2014
Denning and Eugene Laverty, Magny Cours WSBK race1 2014
Voltcom Crescent Suzuki, Magny Cours WSBK race2 2014
Suzuki levers, Magny Cours WSBK 2014
Suzuki levers, Magny Cours WSBK 2014
Denning, Magny Cours WSBK 2014
Suzuki rear brake, Magny Cours WSBK 2014
Voltcom Crescent Suzuki garage, Magny Cours WSBK 2014
Voltcom Crescent Suzuki garage, Magny Cours WSBK 2014
Denning and Alex Lowes, Magny Cours WSBK 2014
Pearson, Alex Lowes and Denning, Magny Cours WSBK 2014
Voltcom Crescent Suzuki, Magny Cours WSBK 2014
Voltcom Crescent Suzuki, Magny Cours WSBK 2014
Voltcom Crescent Suzuki, Magny Cours WSBK 2014

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MotoMarc

February 21, 2014 3:46 PM

Impressive early start so far for Suzuki on such an old bike. That's a testament to hard work by the team and the riders. Let's hope they are at the sharp end to make it an even more interesting season. Can't wait.



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