The Suzuki Alstare team began their preparations for the 2009 World Superbike season by conducting a three-day test at Phillip Island alongside their MotoGP team.

Suzuki, who didn't participate in the post-season test at Portimao, was present with their two confirmed riders for next year, Max Neukirchner and Yukio Kagayama, as they began their development of the 2009 specification GSX-R1000.

Completing more than 420 laps between them, Kagayama was already lapping faster than he managed during the race weekend earlier in the year, while Neukirchner was also on the pace too.

Kagayama, who has urged Suzuki to give him a better bike in 2009 after claiming they had fallen behind in terms of development this year, is already certain the bike is an improvement.

"As the bike is new, there is much work to do, as you can imagine," he said. "I managed to do a short shakedown test in Japan before the bikes were sent to Phillip Island, so these tests were my second time on the bike. My first impression of the new bike is that it handles better than last year's bike, but we shall have to see if that is still the case once we develop it further.

"Of course, we tested many things these past three days and have done a lot of work with the chassis, suspension and different links. We tried different geometries and different swing-arm lengths - all the normal stuff. I started off trying to find the right balance of the bike for me to be comfortable and make it easy to ride and because of this we didn't use any of the electronics.

"We tried some different brakes on the second day and some long runs on day three to find out how the new bike affects the tyres and their consistency. All in all, I am happy because the tests went well, I had no crash and was faster than before here. Now we need to work on the rest of the bike and the electronics and be ready for the start of next season."

Meanwhile, Neukirchner mirrored Kagayama's claims that the bike already handles better than the 2008 machine, even if his three days weren't completely seamless.

"I think that this bike handles better than my bike of last year and its chassis feels good. We did a lot of work, starting with the chassis, suspension, different swing-arms and links and generally I tried to get to know the bike and how it works. On the second day I had a crash on the fast left-hander before Lukey Heights. The front tyre had done 10 laps and the rear was new and I just lost the front end, but luckily all I did to myself was bruise my right elbow.

"On day three we did some long runs to try and find a good set-up to conserve tyre life, but we didn't really do any work on the electronics because we wanted to understand what the bike was doing first. Each day, I got more confident in the bike and more comfortable.

"I am sure I would've gone faster at the end, were it not for a swing-arm that was a bit too long. But, I'm happy generally and looking forward to the next time on the bike and improving it for the start of the season."

Assuming they will run three bikes again next season, Suzuki are the only factory-backed team yet to announce their full rider line-up for the 2009 season. Fonsi Nieto raced alongside Neukirchner and Kagayama this year, although an extension to his contract is still to be confirmed.



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