Suzuki team manager Garry Taylor, the most experienced and longest serving team manager in the GP paddock, is to step down at the end of the 2004 season and be replaced by Paul Denning, owner of the Crescent Suzuki British Superbike team.

55-year-old Taylor first worked with the Suzuki GP team in the mid-Seventies, when Barry Sheene won two consecutive 500cc World Championships. During more than 20 years as team manager, the Englishman has guided the factory outfit to two more individual world titles, with Kevin Schwantz in 1993 and Kenny Roberts Jr. in 2000, and to 40 individual race wins. The team's last race victory was with Sete Gibernau, at Valencia in 2001.

"Being team manager for Suzuki has been the greatest job in the world, and I have enjoyed practically every day of it," said Taylor. "It's been a privilege to work with some of the world's greatest riders, not only the title winners and I would like to thank Suzuki for such an enjoyable career with them."

But while the official Suzuki statement contains further quotes from Taylor declaring that the move was his decision - and giving quite rational explanations as to why he should stop (see below) - rumours circulating within the Qatar paddock still suggest Taylor may have been 'pushed' from the position...

"I had always planned to step down at 55, and the factory were aware of that," Taylor claimed in the statement announcing his departure. "I've decided to do so now, and to take a less active role, for several reasons:

"Firstly, with the pressures of the job increasing year by year along with the popularity of MotoGP, I find I am spending more and more time on the road... next year's schedule, including testing, would have meant more than 200 days away.

"I have an eight-year-old daughter, Phoebe, and I have already missed too many landmarks in her life. I have never been home for her birthday, for example, or indeed for any of my wife's birthdays.

"Secondly, my health has been deteriorating, and while there is nothing that cannot be fixed, I need to stand still long enough to be able to give the doctors the time they need.

"With the Suzuki GSV-R coming to the end of its current development stage, the factory and I decided that the end of this year would be the right time to step down. I believe I will be able to hand on to my successor a well-established and highly motivated team, as can be seen from our improving results during this season," Taylor concluded.

Suzuki racing manager Masahito Imada added: "Suzuki would like to thank Garry for his long and dedicated service to our racing efforts. Together we have achieved some great things. Now we start a new era, determined to continue the improvement in our results."

Denning, who secured 2004 British Superbike title with John Reynolds, will now take over the position of GP team manager from the beginning of 2005.

"Garry has done a fantastic job for Suzuki," said Paul. "We aim to carry on building on the continuing improvements and success of the team and the GSV-R. Suzuki has a high quality, consistent team in place and it is thanks to Garry's efforts that we are inheriting a team with such high potential.

"It's a great opportunity and an honour for us to be entrusted with the next stage in the GSV-R development programme and we are looking forward to the challenges ahead."

Despite Denning's new assignment, Crescent Suzuki still intends to defend the 2005 British Superbike championship on the new GSX-R1000.