At the close of a trying MotoGP campaign, there appears to be great optimism on the horizon for Suzuki after a successful three-day test at Jerez confirmed a considered working process that is carefully building toward 2018.

Having endured a desperate opening to the year, pocked by injuries to rookie Alex Rins and lacklustre showings from lead rider Andrea Iannone, the factory “tidied up the set-up” at a much needed test at Aragon in September. 

Results rapidly improved. Both riders were inside the top six in Japan and Valencia, while Iannone thrillingly fought for the lead through most of the Australian Grand Prix.

And aside from a virus which kept both men from testing on the first day at Valencia, the offseason has been largely positive too. Iannone, Rins and test rider Sylvain Guintoli were present at Jerez last week to sample a variety of engine and chassis combinations to define development direction for ’18.

From a position of peril, Suzuki seems to be a happy place once more. And as Rins’ crew chief Jose Manuel Cazeaux expressed in Andalusia, “My feeling is that we can keep this momentum.”

“We have some components to choose for 2018,” Cazeaux told last week. “We are trying to be careful to do one step at a time. Riders already know the bike quite well.

“The plan is a bit messy but basically we have some engines to test to define the base for 2018. We have to be careful to try to do many laps on each. We have some chassis components also.

“They are starting to be considered the base of [the] 2018 [bike]. It’s to give information to define what is going to be the components we will test at Sepang.”

This time a year ago, with their testing plan restricted due to their losing of the factory concessions, Andrea Iannone tested at Jerez for just one day. Factory test rider Takuya Tsuda did the rest of the heavy lifting.

It was then that Iannone – fresh off a Ducati - sampled and stated a preference for the evolution of Suzuki’s ‘17 engine, which eventually proved to be, in Cazeaux’s words, a serious ‘handicap’ for its riders through this year.

The factory is clearly keen to avoid a repeat. Each rider sampled a different engine/chassis combination on the different days. The newest engine and chassis were only prototypes, with the factory now pondering over the data collected across the three days to piece the ’18 bike together.

Last Thursday Iannone spoke of Suzuki’s desire to make continual small steps, checking and re-checking before confirming a direction. Times were competitive. His fastest time was just 0.4s off Andrea Dovizioso’s lap record pace. And Rins described his pace with Suzuki’s newest chassis as “fantastic.”

“I think the choices they can do this year are more secure than what we did last winter, when one rider was a rookie and injured, and another was coming from a bike that was a bit different from this one,” said Cazeaux. “We are enthusiastic about this winter that is coming.”

So how does he envision the ’18 GSX-RR? “Let’s say if we start from Maverick’s bike at the end of 2016, this year we did many adjustments based on this year’s engine that was built to improve some areas,” he said.

“But during the season we found it was worse in other areas. At many tracks this was a problem and we struggled to be competitive. In any case, it was a positive year; with these difficulties we could improve some details.

“Now, with the base of next year’s engine that we’ve been testing since Valencia, the bike is improving and it looks like we are going in the right direction.

“For sure it [the ’17 engine] was not helping. It was even making it a bit worse than before. Depending on a circuit’s characteristics and levels of grip, this problem was [either] bigger or not [such a problem].”

Asked whether he feels the factory has picked up and carried some much needed momentum into the winter, Cazeaux was sure: “Yeah, my feeling is this,” he said. “I think despite this engine, which was like a handicap in some areas, we were able to finish strongly.

“If we see my side with Alex, after a very bad beginning of his MotoGP career, starting with a bad injury in Valencia then another bad injury in Austin. Since he came back at the Barcelona test, the evolution was slower but with consistent steps. He finished.

“Now he rides the bike [in the correct way]. He knows he is building a working method, that is very important. He understands that it is not just the talent in MotoGP. He’s building his method, feeling what is happening on the bike, and transmitting to the team.

“My feeling is that we can keep this momentum. I’m quite happy. I believe he has a lot of talent for the future. If he continues like this I expect he will enjoy next season.”


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