Suzuki’s return to MotoGP takes another step closer to being realized this week. Frenchman Randy de Puniet is flying to Japan today to test Suzuki’s inline four MotoGP machine at Motegi, as part of the testing program to develop the bike ready for its return in 2014.

In an interview with the official MotoGP.com website, De Puniet said he would be departing on Monday. “We leave tomorrow to go to Japan to test at Motegi with Suzuki,” he told MotoGP.com. “It will be a good experience for me, and I hope to do a great job.” After testing at Motegi, De Puniet will fly back to Europe to take part in the next round of MotoGP with the Power Electronics Aspar team at Mugello, where he will ride the team’s Aprilia ART machine.

Though De Puniet has been engaged to test Suzuki’s new MotoGP machine, it is still unclear whether he is in the frame for a permanent ride on the bike when the factory returns full time in 2014.

De Puniet seemed like an obvious choice when the Aspar team were favorite to run the Suzuki factory entry, but now that Davide Brivio has been given the task of organizing Suzuki’s entry, De Puniet is no longer the favorite for the seat. According to GPOne, Brivio has relinquished his duties with Valentino Rossi’s VR46 merchandising operation to focus full time on the Suzuki team.

The name most frequently being linked with the ride at Suzuki is that of Cal Crutchlow. The Englishman has been extremely impressive so far this season, and scoring a podium at Le Mans merely strengthened his claim to a factory seat.

Crutchlow has made no secret of his desire to race in a factory team, and with the Honda and Yamaha seats already tied up, that leaves only Nicky Hayden’s seat at Ducati (the American is on a one-year deal with the Bologna factory) and the two new seats at Suzuki.

Signing for Suzuki would be a huge risk, given that nobody is certain how competitive the bike is. That will only become clear once the bike makes its public debut at the Barcelona test in June.

So far, Crutchlow has been non-committal on speculation he may sign for Suzuki, joking he may switch sports and go cycling instead. That is a realistic option: Crutchlow lives on the Isle of Man and is a regular training partner of Mark Cavendish, the 2012 cycling World Champion and winner of multipe Tour de France stages. He is regarded as being talented enough to make the change, should he decide to consider it seriously.

If Crutchlow does take one Suzuki seat, the question will be who would take the other. Where Crutchlow would take the role as lead rider in the team, Suzuki may want to look at a younger rider for the future of the brand. GPOne.com speculates that with Brivio in charge, he may prefer to recruit a young Italian.

The only young Italians with MotoGP experience are Andrea Iannone and Danilo Petrucci, while there are no up-and-coming Italians in Moto2 at the moment. The next young rider on his way up would be Romano Fenati, but Fenati is in just his second season of Moto3, and the step from Moto3 to MotoGP is too large to contemplate at the moment.

Source: MotoGP.com & GPone; Photo: © 2013 Scott Jones / Scott Jones Photography – All Rights Reserved

This article was originally published on MotoMatters, and is republished here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the author.

  • L2C

    Romano Fenati was mighty impressive in his Moto3 debut last season. I became an instant fan – but what is going on with him this season? Are there problems within FTR, or what? This year they are playing nowhere near last year’s level. I’ve been wondering about this, but I have heard very little.

  • John D

    I think that Suzuki will be pretty well up to scratch from the start. They’ve been working hard and there simply is no reason to rejoin the series and not put up the best effort. Suzuki certainly knows how to build inline 4’s.

    Cruthlow would be a great pick for one of the available seats.

  • Cody

    The uncertainty of the Suzuki keeps getting brought up but would it be any worse really than the known certainty of the Ducati and its inability to be on the level of Yamaha and Honda for the past years? I think the largest negative of the Suzuki is and will be the in house ECU. For a rider like RdP it may be worth the risk though to know a entire factory is behind him though.

  • “I think the largest negative of the Suzuki is and will be the in house ECU.”

    Everybody will be running Magneti-Marelli boxes from next year. Suzuki will be able to use its own software, but everybody shares the same hardware.

  • CTK

    I want more factory bikes and more competitive options but I just don’t know about Suzuki coming in and taking podiums. The GSV-R was never competitive. I don’t think it ever won a title. And they will have to build around the tires and overcome Honda’s seamless gearbox and Yamaha’s chassis. It’s a crazy crazy uphill battle.

    I still think the bikes should be equalized somehow. I keep saying it but there need to be HP limits. And HP penalties for the seamless gearbox. I get that MotoGP is supposed to showcase the technology but not at the expense of competition. If someone makes a bike that is 10 seconds faster around every lap because it has 50 more HP who would watch the races?