Suzuki Project Leader Shinichi Sahara concedes his team’s 2019 results didn’t reflect expectations despite two wins for Alex Rins and pinpoints key areas to improve for both his riders and with the development of the GSX-RR.

Rins secured a pair of MotoGP wins this year, coming at the Americas and British rounds respectively, to see Suzuki return to the top step of the podium for the first time since 2016.

While maiden victories for Rins elevated his status as one of the top riders currently in MotoGP, Suzuki boss Sahara had hoped for a greater podium haul overall with Rins and the team reaching the rostrum on just three occasions all year – his two wins at Circuit of the Americas and Silverstone plus his second place at Jerez.

With Suzuki duly targeting consistent podium finishes in 2020, Sahara feels improvements Rins can make in qualifying can help step up his race results “automatically”. Last year Rins qualified on the front two rows on just four occasions (Assen, Sachsenring, Brno and Silverstone) out of 19 rounds.

“The 2019 season was really good for us, we celebrated two victories with Alex Rins and witnessed the quick progression of Joan Mir despite his injury. But to be truly honest, I was hoping for more podium finishes,” Sahara said.

“Even the position in the team’s classification [fifth] doesn’t completely reflect our true potential, so we have to work harder. I don’t believe we have to change the direction of the development because we have a well-balanced bike, but we need to upgrade and improve the performance overall.

“I like Alex’s attitude, because he is always ready to battle and he’s always able to improve on Sunday when it comes to the race – even when his qualifying position hasn’t been very good. This is the reason why we call him ‘Sunday Boy’. But to be honest, in 2020, I will need him to qualify better.

“I am pretty sure that if he can get better grid positions, better race results will come automatically. Of course, this is not only a matter of his riding, it also depends on the bike we give him. We must take steps forward and give him support so he can achieve this improvement. That’s what we have in our plans.”

Looking over to the other half of the Suzuki garage, Sahara has been impressed by Joan Mir’s progress as a MotoGP rookie and is confident of seeing continued improvements and a fight towards the podium in 2020.

“I have no doubt that Mir has the true potential to be a top rider in the near future. His crash and injury in Brno affected his performance during the second part of the season and cost him a lot,” Sahara explained, with Mir missing the Austrian and British rounds due to heavy lung bruising.

“Despite all this, he still got close to the podium in many races. Next year he won’t be a rookie anymore and he will benefit from one year of experience, which in turn will give him extra confidence.”

Suzuki sticks with the same rider line-up for 2020 with Sylvain Guintoli also retained as test and wildcard rider.