Suzuki’s current strong MotoGP form is down to the manufacturer creating “countermeasures” during its torrid 2017 campaign that has helped improve the GSX-RR bike, says test rider Sylvain Guintoli.
The 2017 bike proved largely uncompetitive and Suzuki believed the main problem was homologating the wrong specification of engine, with its then-rider Andrea Iannone said to have played a role in the mistake.
With the help of concessions, Suzuki made a step over the off-season to return to the podium in 2018.
It continued an upward trajectory with current lead rider Alex Rins giving Suzuki its first MotoGP win since ’16 at Austin in a strong campaign that has featured 13 top-six finishes in the last 14 races.
Speaking in Barcelona, Guintoli pinpointed 2017 as the turning point for Suzuki. “It’s been step by step,” he said of Suzuki’s progress.
“The first massive step was in 2017 when we identified what wasn’t right. “And after that, we worked during the season on different countermeasures – because we couldn’t change this [‘frozen’ engine spec].
“So we worked on countermeasures to try and be competitive towards the end of the year, which we started to be, in Phillip Island [Iannone took sixth], Valencia [Rins finished fourth], and that was the end of ’17.
“And then after that, in ’18, the bike was straight away better.
“All the work that’s been done in the second part of the year to counter that problem, that then became very useful, and then it started to work with a bike that was better-born.
“And all of that experience is just paying off, at the end of last year already, and then this year.”
Guintoli said the 2017 slump “inspired everybody in the team” and helped “create a really strong team unit” that Suzuki was now benefitting from.
“It’s in the difficult moments, you just crumble or you stick together, and in these moments the team had a great attitude, and it’s paying off now.
“Now most weekends it’s all smiles and the guys are competitive so it’s nice to see.”
Suzuki’s bike has a top speed weakness and has not always performed strongly in one-lap pace, but its rivals have been impressed with the GSX-RR’s cornering and its ability to extend tyre life.
“Sometimes I feel a bit embarrassed because lots of people come to me and say ‘ah, it’s great, you’re doing great!’,” Guintoli said.
“I think, it is good – it’s nice to be a link in the chain. The work we’re doing with Tom [O’Kane, crew chief], and the test team, it is now like a proper entity in the team, it works like a race team.
“So we’re able to really do some efficient work and it’s nice to be part of it.
“But most credit goes to Suzuki and especially to our young guns [Rins and Joan Mir] that know how to turn the throttle.”