At times, the 2003 MotoGP season has seemed like a tortuous experience for Kawasaki and Suzuki - the Japanese factories struggling to make the top-ten in either race or qualifying trim, and rarely able to challenge the likes of Honda, Ducati and Yamaha.

Suzuki finished the year with a best result of seventh, claimed by John Hopkins at Jerez, helping them to just 43 manufacturers' points by the end of the year.

That put the 2000 world champions just fifth in the constructors' battle - behind Honda (395), Ducati (225), Yamaha (175) and Aprilia (81) - after failing to score any points in five of the sixteen rounds. In terms of the riders' championship, Hopkins was 17th, two places ahead of Kenny Roberts.

"You can believe our team is happy to have this season over," said Suzuki's race team manager Gary Taylor. "It's been incredibly hard work for everyone. Kenny and John have both been superb. They've kept their focus and kept going, and given the factory engineers good information. The crew worked their backsides off. Now we are all looking forward to next year, hoping for the machine development that will make us fully competitive again. We start testing in January."

Kawasaki, in their first full year of MotoGP competition, achieved a best finish of ninth at a wet/dry Le Mans with Garry McCoy, but didn't have a single bike in the top fifteen (for a point's finish) at eleven rounds.

That left 'team green' at the bottom of the constructors table with 19 points - 24 behind Suzuki and 19 off Proton. Of those 19 points, McCoy claimed 11, wild-card Alex Hofmann 8 and Andrew Pitt 4 - placing them 22nd, 23rd and 26th (last) in the individual standings.

"It has been a long and difficult year in the toughest class in motorcycle racing," confessed team manager Harald Eckl. "I'm happy we got through it and now look forward to working even harder, starting with the Valencia test next week with our new prototype. I'm positive we can make a big step forward in 2004."

Hopkins and Roberts look set to remain at Suzuki next year, while McCoy is leaving Kawasaki to be replaced by Hofmann. Pitt's seat now looks 'safe'.

 

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