Racing

Trackside Tuesday: The Silly Suzuki Season

Google+ Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr

As Randy de Puniet heads to Japan to test Suzuki’s 2014 MotoGP bike, the possible availability (some won’t be convinced it’s a reality until a pair of Suzuki motorcycles appear on the grid in Qatar next April) of two new factory seats has spawned a Silly Season unto itself.

If that possibility entailed another satellite prototype team, the furor would be considerable, but that it’s a new factory team means reason and rationality are running for their lives.

So once again we have the chance to observe the unique mindset of the top level motorbike racer. To that mindset, at least in this modern era, the factory ride is the Holy Grail of motorcycle racing. It’s easy to see why this has happened.







After the days of the 500cc two-strokes, when a highly-developed formula meant a privateer team could compete with the deep-pocket teams, the four-stroke era has seen costs skyrocket, and factory-deep pockets dominate the win column. It’s for very good reasons that riders feel you have to be on a factory bike to win races. But the thing is, not all factories are equal.

Consider Marco Melandri. In 2006 he won three races with Fortuna Honda. After a winless 2007 with Gresini Honda, he landed a factory ride at Ducati, and that didn’t turn out to be all he’d hoped. Only Casey Stoner was able to make a factory Ducati seat mean something in the neighborhood of a factory Honda or factory Yamaha ride.

And yet, when Valentino Rossi left Ducati, the availability of a factory seat with the Italian marque had Cal Crutchlow and Andrea Dovizioso ready and willing to leave the best satellite ride simply because the opportunity contained the word ‘factory.’







In the four-stroke era, a factory Suzuki seat wasn’t exactly the cat’s pajamas, either. But as 2014 approaches, and Suzuki looks to be coming back to add a fourth manufacturer to the prototype competition, Factory Fever is catching.

I have it: I would LOVE to see Suzuki come into 2014 with a bike capable of breaking up the Honda-Yamaha show. I simply think it’s unlikely for a company that limped out of MotoGP with one uncompetitive bike to come back and compete with the Goliath known as HRC and the crafty David known as Yamaha without several seasons of development funded by strong street bike sales. (Cue crickets.)

But no riders have texted me to ask what I think, so I’m ready to jump into this Suzuki Silly Season with both feet and if nothing else, enjoy the possibilities. Suzuki comes back to MotoGP with a wide range of talent in front of which to dangle the “factory” bait, and given the lure of that magic word, the manufacturer has a fine chance of getting some top talent on their team.

Current contracts be damned–a factory will spend what it must to get the riders it wants, right? RIGHT?







Cal Crutchlow must be at the top of the list, and he appears ready to roll the dice in spite of a 2nd place finish at Le Mans and a spot with a team that is as good a satellite effort as one can get in the modern era. Will factory Suzuki be better than Tech 3 Yamaha? Fortune favors the bold, so…

Alvaro Bautista was Suzuki’s most recent rider, and might easily be tempted to head back to that factory given how his Honda results have gone. The factory magic didn’t work for him in Rizla Blue, but…

Stefan Bradl is under pressure to perform now that he has the factory-spec Honda, and given his results through the first four races, he may be looking for new opportunities. And Suzuki could certainly do worse than the talented German rider…

It’s not impossible that Suzuki would like to have a veteran on one bike (assuming they bring two to the grid) to guide its growth. Nicky Hayden’s Ducati contract is up at the end of this year, and given his commitment and work ethic and experience, and more to the point, what he brings with him regardless of his race results, he might find the phone ringing…

If your name were Colin Edwards, and Suzuki wanted to talk about receiving the input of MotoGP’s most senior veteran, how good would that sound compared to the CRT experience? It might sound pretty darned good…

Aleix Espargaro seems on track to be the best CRT rider again, and a lot of folks in the paddock are impressed with what he brings to each race. Perhaps Suzuki also likes what they see…

Randy de Puniet is testing the bike! Surely he’s at least in the running for one of the seats after his years of trying so very hard on second-tier equipment and showing so much raw talent…

Rumors have Pol Espargaro in talks with Yamaha for a Tech 3 seat, but now that the rookie rule is gone, perhaps Pol has a chance to skip the satellite path and go straight to a factory bike…

Scott Redding will be ready for the premier class, and if Suzuki renews its ties to British management, whether it’s Paul Denning or not, Redding is a rising power in Moto2 and someone to consider for a young team looking at the future…

Insert in this space your own WSBK wildcard: Leon Camier? Chaz Davies? Eugene Laverty? Jonathan Rea? Tom Sykes? Marco Melandri! MAX BIAGGI!!!!!!!

Sentimental favorite John Hopkins rated his Suzuki reunion chances at 50% when speaking to BBC commentator Matt Roberts at Le Mans. What Hayden does for Ducati in the US market, Hopper might do for Suzuki…

All of the above are, in my mind, candidates for ONE of the likely two Suzuki bikes that may appear in 2014. But my pick for the other: Ben Spies. Spies and Crutchlow on competitive Suzukis in 2014? THAT would be good…

Scott Jones is a professional photographer who covers MotoGP and WSBK for racing industry clients as well as racing websites and publications in the U.S. and Europe. His online archive is available at Photo.GP, and you can find him on his blogTwitter, & Facebook.

All images posted, shared, or sent for editorial use or review are registered for full copyright protection at the Library of Congress.

Photo: © 2008 Scott Jones / Scott Jones Photography – All Rights Reserved







Comments