Suzuki wild-card Akira Ryo and race regular John Hopkins saved the team some major embarrassment today at Motegi when they finally managed to 'force' the 2003 spec GSV-R around the 4.8km circuit faster than the 2002 machine went last year.

Yesterday, along with Kawasaki, Suzuki suffered the ultimate humiliation in engineering terms when - despite the best efforts of riders and team - the 2003 machine proved slower than the 2002 model, something 'incredible' in top level motorsport.

However, today Ryo (top picture) lapped 0.4secs inside the time of Kenny Roberts from last year, with Hopkins 0.2secs quicker - not exactly impressive, especially as Roberts himself (lower pic) was actually 0.6secs slower this year...

When the team's speed is compared with the competition things also look bad: In 2002, Roberts was 0.8secs behind Daijiro Kato's pole time, today top Suzuki rider Ryo was 1.8secs off Max Biaggi's pace. The gap is getting bigger.

As a result of such performances, 2003 looks like being be a pivotal season for Suzuki. A fundamental mistake has been made with this year's machine - a new bike must, if nothing else, must prove faster than its predecessor within a reasonable period of time - otherwise there's simply no point in introducing it. Suzuki will surely never allow such a situation to occur again.

"Lap-time wise its hard to really justify the progress, but at least there is a lot more stuff here, and generally it's positive," said Roberts after today's session.

Kawasaki, who have much less GP experience, at least got both Garry McCoy and Andrew Pitt (who's never been to Motegi before) lapping faster than Akira Yanagawa had one year ago, by 0.6secs and 0.2secs respectively.

Again not much progress, and the 2003 ZXRR has also slipped from 2.2secs behind pole a year ago to 3secs in 2003 - but even that means they've found 0.2secs more speed when compared with Suzuki.



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