Suzuki continued to show they won't be discounted in the fight for the 2009 World Superbike Championship as Max Neukirchner and Yukio Kagayama hauled the new GSX-R1000 K9 into contention during testing at Kyalami.
Having given the bike its first test at Phillip Island earlier this month, Neukirchner and Kagayama were out again in South Africa to compare the bike to the competition, with the pair regularly troubling the top five positions over the three days.
With Ducati, Yamaha and Honda, as well as newcomers Aprilia and BMW, garnering most of the attention during the off-season, Suzuki, with its unchanged rider line-up (minus Fonsi Nieto), used the time gather more data from the bike rather than focus on lap times.
However, with the searing weather temperatures and the high altitude skewing some of the results, Neukirchner, who would eventually produce the sixth quickest time, admits there is still plenty to learn before the start of the season.
"Generally I am happy about this test and the work we did here. It's always difficult testing or racing at altitude, but we managed to try lots of different things and made a lot of progress. We changed the balance of the bike for the afternoon and I was doing a long run when the red flag came out and that prevented us getting some valuable data.
“We had some problems yesterday, but still went fast, but today we had problems and could not go fast! It wasn't so hard to do good lap times, but it was hard to then shave off those fractions of a second and go even quicker.
“We have learned a lot about this new bike and my team and I are happy because we know that we'll improve further at the next test. For me, it was important for me to understand this bike and I feel that I have achieved that goal."
Seventh place Kagayama shared his team-mate's views, admitting the track temperature especially was making the bike difficult to ride.
"We changed the set-up today and in the morning we definitely improved from yesterday. For me, one of the problems was the bumpy track because that upset the bike a lot and made it difficult to ride smoothly. I wanted to do a lot of work with the engine, but maybe high altitude is not so good for working with the engine because we didn't get the answers we wanted.
“We tried some tyres in the afternoon but when it was very hot - the track temperature went over 57 C - so the bike was not so easy to ride. But, don't forget that this is a new bike and we have a lot to learn before we push at the front. I feel positive though that we will meet this challenge."